Gospel: Mt 17:9a, 10-13
And as they came down the mountain, the disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered, “So it is: first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognize him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”
Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.
A lot of people imagine that it would be a good thing for humans to know in advance when they will die. Why? Because they think that humans could be better prepared when the time came for them to meet their Maker.
Perhaps. But when we study the case of people who do know when they are to die (because their doctor told them or because they have been condemned to death by a criminal court), we notice that this prospect weighs on them like a terrible burden and robs them of any real joy in living.
Well, Jesus knew he was going to die of a terribly agonizing death. We do not know how exactly he came about this knowledge (a special revelation from God? the descriptions of the Servant of Yahweh’s sufferings in Isaiah? the mounting hatred he encountered?), but the fact remains that he had that knowledge, and it weighed so heavily on his mind that he frequently referred to his death—sometimes just in passing, as in today’s gospel reading, sometimes in great detail. This certainty of his impending death was an added suffering that he endured out of love for us.