Saint Peter Chrysologus
Doctor of the Church

“and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:2.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“The Jews had different opinions about the resurrection. Some of them were false. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or in the existence of angels. They believed those things that were written about them were only to be interpreted figuratively but had no reality in point of fact. Other Jewish views of the resurrection were true, such as were taught by the Pharisees about the resurrection of the dead — that they rise.

We must now therefore inquire about the opinion regarding the soul, which was mistakenly held by Herod and some from among the people. It ran something like this: John, who a little earlier had been slain by him, had risen from the dead after he had been beheaded. This person who had risen was the same person under a different name, one now called Jesus. Herod imagined that Jesus possessed the same powers that formerly worked in John. If the powers that worked in John had passed over to Jesus, Jesus was thus thought by some to actually be John the Baptist.

The return of Elijah fueled this idea. Here is the line of argument. It was the spirit and power of Elijah that had returned in John. “This is Elijah who is to come.” The spirit in Elijah possessed the power to go into John. So Herod thought that the powers John worked in baptism and teaching had a miraculous effect in Jesus, even though John did not do miracles. It may be said that something of this kind was the underlying thought of those who said that Elijah had appeared in Jesus or that one of the old prophets had risen.” (Commentary on Matthew, 10.)

O God,
who made the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus
an outstanding preacher of your incarnate Word,
grant, through his intercession,
that we may constantly ponder in our hearts
the mysteries of your salvation
and faithfully express them in what we do.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen