As they walked on conversing,
a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
When Elisha saw it happen he cried out,
“My father! my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!”
But when he could no longer see him,
Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.
Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him,
and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan.
Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah,
Elisha struck the water in his turn and said,
“Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?”
When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over. (2 Kgs 2:11-14)
Picking up the mantle is a concept very much like passing the torch. The difference is in the timing. In picking up the mantle, authority is transferred after the leader departs and leaves behind his mantle for someone to assume. In passing the torch, the leader hands off his authority to someone else and then departs.
“Picking up the mantle” comes from today’s first reading in which Elisha picked up Elijah’s mantle after Elijah was whisked into heaven by fiery chariots. Elisha then became the new prophet who would lead the people.
It was a scary proposition for Elisha and one filled with a certain amount of dread. It was very palpable in his expression as he struck the water and asked, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?”
God was there.
And God acted through Elisha as God had acted through Elijah.
We have picked up the mantle of others in our lives. Many of us, without an obvious “handing of the torch” picked up the mantle of something that our parent or parents used to do. No one ever discussed it. No one planned it. However, when a parent passed away, one of the children assumed many of the roles that parent used to assume.
It is the same with other dear friends we may have lost in our lives. Something that they did impacted us and, we felt, the world would be less if their work would not continue. So, without planning, we picked up the mantle left behind by them.
Picking up the mantle can be a scary thing. It can be confusing. It can fill one with dread or anticipation.
It can also make all the difference in the world to someone else.
FAITH ACTION: Has a parent, relative, friend, or other significant person done something in this world that is not being accomplished any more? Do you feel called to pick up the mantle and continue that good work? Be not afraid. As Elisha did, pick up the mantle, call upon the name of the Lord, and walk confidently in faith!