“I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also, the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” (Matthew 17:12)
Looking at our readings today from the book of Ecclesiasticus and the Gospel of Matthew, one might easily be tempted to infer that John the Baptist was the re-incarnation of Elijah. The belief in the reincarnation of a person is still being held strongly by many Africans and this belief is expressed in names such as “Babatunde” or “Yetunde” meaning “Daddy/Mummy has come back.”
From the way Jesus spoke of John the Baptist as the one who has already come and they did to him whatever they pleased, does he seem to suggest that the idea of reincarnation is valid? No! It is important that we get this right so as not to use this passage to support our traditional belief in reincarnation.
The book of Hebrews says: “It is appointed for mortals to die once and after that the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). As the Catechism teaches: “When the single course of our earthly life is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives. There is no reincarnation after death.” (CCC No. 1013).
So, what was Jesus inferring? Just as our first reading pays glowing tributes to Elijah, there were many people in the time of Jesus who strongly held the belief that Elijah must return and that unless Elijah returns, the Messiah would not come. Now, the disciples of Jesus who were still having difficulty understanding who Jesus is had to ask him this question about Elijah. Indirectly, they were saying: “if you are the Messiah, how come Elijah has not yet returned?”
Jesus responded by basically telling them: “Yes! I am the Messiah. I am the One you have been waiting for. I am God in your midst. Elijah has come but they treated him badly so also will I be treated.” Jesus never said John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah, he did not even mention the name of the person he was referring to, it was the disciples themselves who assumed he meant John the Baptist.
The point in all of today’s messages is simple: Jesus is God in the midst of people. We have no reason to doubt that Jesus is the Promised Messiah. Every single prophecy about Jesus came to pass; even those that were made thousands of years before he was born. We do not need any further proof. Jesus is Truly God.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, increase my faith and trust in you. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Eccles. 48:1-4,9-12, Ps. 80:2-3,15-16,18-19, Matthew 17:10-13)*
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu