Asking God to be so explicit as to take away our choices is ultimately not a good deal.
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Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
It was a general belief in Jesus’ time that the Messiah would be preceded by the return of the prophet Elijah. This sign, in the collective imagination, would have been irrefutable proof of the coming of the Messiah. This is why in today’s Gospel the disciples ask, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus answers them that not only is this true, but that Elijah has already come and they have done away with him. John the Baptist was the Elijah everyone was waiting for, but he ended up with his head cut off. The great prophet who was to prepare the way of the Lord ended up dead like most true prophets, as paradoxically would happen to the Messiah himself.
Today’s Gospel seems to suggest to us that we are all always waiting for a sign to help us discern the right thing to do. Very often we’re waiting for spectacular signs, incontrovertible signs, but the truth is that signs are just signs, and very often they leave us so free that we can even choose to ignore or twist them.
What we need instead is great inner sensitivity to perceive what the Lord sends us as a sign to show us the way without ever taking away our freedom. Asking God to be so explicit as to take away our choices is ultimately not a good deal. Today we are asking for eyes to recognize the Elijahs hidden behind the many John the Baptists with whom our lives are peopled.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.