The book of Sirach serves as a compendium of the wisdom of the Old Testament. Short, practical sayings comprise most of the book. Then it concludes with eulogies of the heroes of the history of Israel.
As we read, the prophet Elijah had the mission of confronting the nation’s descent into paganism. The Israelites had settled into the habit of neglecting the service of the true God. They had grown accustomed to dishonest compromises. And they sought power and luxury, rather than righteousness.
Elijah confronted the king, the queen, the pagan priests, the false prophets. He fearlessly stared them all down. But, before the awesome truth of God, Elijah meekly humbled himself.
Sirach reports how the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot: a sign that another divine visitation was yet to come, that the justice which Elijah proclaimed would, in due time, come to fulfillment. In other words, the Messiah would come–the heavenly man, the Anointed, Who would reign as the Prince of Peace.
The Bible, Christ, our Church; our faith, our religion: these demand our most profound allegiance. We serve Christ all the time, everywhere we find ourselves, in everything we do.
What kind of religion would we have if it had to confine itself to the church building alone? If religion meant only ceremonies in the church, and everything outside the doors was really a totally different life, governed only by the laws of the state, and Christ our King had no power over us once we drove off church property?
Obviously, that would be no kind of religion at all, at least not as far as we are concerned. We practice the religion of the Bible, the religion of Elijah the fearless prophet, the religion of the heroes of Israel. We practice the religion which is due to the Creator and Savior of the world. His power and love extend everywhere. So we must serve Him everywhere.
Any human law which would impede the faithful service of Elijah’s God, the God of the holy Catholic Church—any law which would prohibit the service of this all-demanding God—that’s an unjust law, no law at all. That’s a law which any person of conscience must consider it his or her bounden duty to break.