“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Luke 10:21
I was watching an Antique Road Show episode recently that was situated on the grounds of this majestic cathedral. As the narrator described the setting, I learned that some prominent English family (whose name escapes me now) was instrumental in significantly renovating and preserving the exterior and interior of the cathedral. In fact this family played a very large part in not only saving the building from decay but ensuring that it would remain a source of wonder for centuries to come.
As a result, the FAMILY name was prominently found in the naming of some of the key rooms in the church. Their name legacy is etched throughout the stain glass and marble detailing throughout the cathedral and seems as sacred as the scenes from the Bible itself.
The narrator of this episode went on to say, in a tongue in cheek fashion, that if this family wasn’t already guaranteed of eternal life based on their philanthropic efforts at the church, than surely this last little kicker would do the trick: the family made sure that each member received one thousand communions prorated, to make up for the years in which they never attended church service. The Priest was glad to do it—although I’m sure he needed some backup.
After all, if anyone deserved it, it was this rich and very significant family.
And this story made me think about how all of us tend to operate when left to our own devices. When facing the emptiness of our own soul we deal with it by asking, “Did we leave a LASTING sense of goodness around for others after we die?”
Because, sadly, even if we really believe in the unconditional love and grace of the Gospel, we still like to hedge our bet by frantically looking around to see how well our legacy is doing. Have we donated to charities enough? Have we opened up a wing of a library? What about those miserable looking, mistreated dogs in the TV commercials that just need a little of our money?
How many people with our exact full name, when we do a google search, have more impressive resumes than us?
If we are a teacher, have we taught students that will go on to be important doctors and lawyers after having known us?
Then after we have exhausted that legacy department than we naturally switch gears and think of our accomplishments before we leave this mortal coil.
Did we break a record that still stands in school? Are we still talked about at future high school reunions? Have we published a widely read book or become famous or infamous enough to be a future Trivial Pursuit question?
Did we have enough offspring to keep us alive through their genes for perpetuity?
Have our accumulated LIKES on Facebook really meant that we are more loved and have our own army of friends?
Along the way, we scatter and skew whether this legacy of ours is for getting to heaven or for simply being remembered here on earth forever. Do we care more about having a building named for us than going to heaven?
Certainly for this rich English family, when they finished receiving their ONE THOUSANDTH communion, the gaining of heaven was the biggest burning need for them in order to feel peace of mind, since the material accomplishments were all covered.
Unfortunately it is a true fact that we all reflexively lean on a tad of superstition when we reach some desperate, misguided notion in our lives just as we carry a strong desire to earn favor. It is a tendency that is locked deep in us and it rears its tacky head when we are most insecure and have let our guard down.
But the good news is we don’t have to rely on math or being rich enough to restore an old cathedral. Our resume can be thrown out the window too.
The love of the Lord supersedes all talents and riches and buildings.
And it seems that we matter MOST when we stop thinking about any kind of legacy and focus instead just on this central relationship while approaching heaven with the joy and wonder of a child and not that of an expert or a big check writer.