One of the most vivid Church memories I have was of a friend who was making final vows as a Benedictine many years ago now. It was a very beautiful Mass, but what really stood out so vividly to me was that, while the assembly sang the Litany of the Saints and my friend lie prostrate before the altar, the abbot and some other monks placed the funeral pall over him. This symbolized that he had “died” to his former life, in order to take up his new life in service to Christ.
So when we hear today’s first reading about Elijah placing his cloak over Elisha, it calls that memory to mind. Elisha knew immediately what the action meant: he had been called to serve as prophet to succeed Elijah. So after protesting he was not ready, he immediately set out to put to death everything in his life that held him back: he slaughtered his oxen and burned the plowing equipment to cook their flesh to feed his people. Then he freely left it all behind to serve God.
We too have, at some point, the mantle placed upon us. Whatever our calling is, it involves a death to whatever has come before so that we can freely serve in whatever way God is calling us. For most, it won’t be quite so dramatic, but there is that death. For example, for those getting married, it’s a death to the single life so that they can serve their spouse in love and fidelity. We have to be ready to die to whatever holds us back from fulfilling God’s call, so that we can pray with the Psalmist today, “You are my inheritance, O Lord.”