Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Sirach 48, 1-4.9-11

Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, his word flaring like a torch.

It was he who brought famine on them and decimated them in his zeal.

By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens, three times also he brought down fire.

How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah! Has anyone reason to boast as you have?-

taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses;

designated in the prophecies of doom to allay God's wrath before the fury breaks, to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Blessed, those who will see you, and those who have fallen asleep in love; for we too shall certainly have life.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

As we approach the Lord's Nativity, the daily Liturgy presents us with the figure of Elijah, both in the first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, and in Matthew's Gospel (17:10-13), where Jesus himself speaks of the prophet Elijah as he comes down from the mountain after the Transfiguration. According to the tradition of the time, Elijah was to come before the Messiah. Jesus is confirming that in fact he has already come. But he means John the Baptist. The book of Sirach presents Elijah with strong words: “Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire, and his word burned like a torch.” The Lord's people had fallen into hard-heartedness and stubbornly continued their violent and sinful behaviour. It is easy not to listen to the Word of God, even when it is proclaimed abundantly in our lives. While the Lord involves us in his dream of peace for the world, almost stopping the flow of history with his word, pride makes us blind to God's works and keeps us from appreciating their grandeur or rejoicing in them with gratitude. But the Word of the Lord still comes to us, and surprises us with the newness of its announcement, overcoming our habit of taking what we hear for granted: “From this time forward I make you hear new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, so that you could not say, ‘I already knew them’” (Is 48:6). If we think we already know the words of the prophet, if they no longer surprise us, if they do not descend into the depths of our hearts, it is because we are too sure that we are listening to them and living them. In truth, it is easiest for us to listen to ourselves and our habits. But the Lord comes to us and raises up prophets to shake our hearts. Elijah represents the new prophecy that the Lord makes resound in our ears in this age, so greatly in need of change. The preaching we hear in these days -- and not just from Pope Francis, who is truly like Elijah -- that preaching continues to come down “three times” like “fire” into the hearts of men and women. We see many signs. Is there not a fire that burns and “turn[s] the hearts of parents to their children?” It is the fire of preaching, which tries to involve us all in Elijah's prophetic mission, so that every wound be healed and fraternity re-established.