With the exception of Our Lord and his glorious Resurrection from the dead no biblical figure makes a more spectacular exit from this life than the prophet Elijah. His chariot of fire with its blazing steeds has been interpreted by some as an indication that he may have been picked up by an Unidentified Flying Object. His mysterious departure gave rise to the belief among Jews that Elijah would return to announce the coming of the Messiah. Each year at Passover, Jews drink from an Elijah Cup in the hope that the Messiah is at hand. Christians remember Elijah standing with Moses at Our Lord’s Transfiguration. The three Apostles present evidently recognised in Jesus the promised Messiah as they asked why Elijah hadn’t come. Our Lord replied that he had come but went unrecognised. Our Lord was referring of course to Saint John the Baptist.
In the long run, it isn’t the style in which Elijah or any of us departs this life that counts; rather it’s the style in which he and all of us live our lives that counts in the end. Elijah’s life was firmly centred on God which meant, among other things, that his prophetic role required him to bring some fairly challenging messages to powerful people who didn’t want to hear them. But I don’t think Elijah cared much about what people thought. He simply did what he believed God required of him.
Our Lord recommends the same to us in his Sermon on the Mount. Practising our faith because it’s good for business or to see who’s there or who’s wearing what or simply to look good in the eyes of our friends and neighbours, leaves a lot to be desired. There is only one reason to practice religious faith at all really, and that is simply to do what we believe God requires of us.