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Not the Glory We Imagine
Anyone who has watched the sun rise knows the soft glow that develops on the horizon right before the sun emerges. This dawning light ushers in the new day.
In these Advent days of waiting, John the Baptist is the dawning light of Christ. “Prepare the way of the Lord!” John cries out. As if to say, “Soon the Son will be here, the light in all its fullness will shine forth.” Inviting us to open our eyes to the glory of God dawning in Jesus, John fulfills the role of an earlier prophet, Elijah, on whom today’s readings focus.
Elijah’s prophetic greatness was well known, as the book of Sirach recounts. What’s more, he never died but was taken up in a chariot of fire. Thus, in Jewish tradition, Elijah will return to make way for the Messiah, the Anointed One who is to come.
Jesus’ disciples would have known and believed this. That is what makes Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel all the more scandalous. In fulfilling Elijah’s prophetic role, John the Baptist foretold Jesus as the Messiah and was killed. Despite the glory of the Transfiguration (complete with Moses and Elijah), which immediately precedes today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling the disciples that the Messianic light they are anticipating may not be the glory they imagined.
This is a good reminder in these Advent days. The glorious savior we anticipate will take the form of a vulnerable, marginalized child. Following his way will lead us into uncomfortable territory where we are called to give our whole selves in scandalously expansive love. By doing so, we prepare the way, witnessing to the dawning light and trusting that God’s light will give us life and our lives will shine Jesus’ light in the world.
Sr. Colleen Gibson
Colleen Gibson is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia. Author of the blog Wandering in Wonder (beingmyvocation.blogspot.com), she is currently pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.
[CREDIT] Sr. Colleen Gibson, “Not the Glory We Imagine” from the December 2022 issue of Give Us This Day, www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2022). Used with permission.