What Legacy Will We Leave Behind
How do we want to be remembered? Think about that? When you die, what do you want people to say about you in your eulogy? What will they remember was most important to you? Will your legacy be something about your family? Your professional work? Your hobbies? Your friendships? Your faith? Your generosity?
Will you be remembered for the good you did for others and how you changed the world around us for the better? Or will you be known for your self-centeredness or for some mistake or scandal in your life? Will your legacy be about how you touched the lives of people and made their lives better, or how you lived a comfortable life focused on yourself and your own family? What is it that we want others to remember when we are gone?
It’s an interesting question, and maybe an uncomfortable one, because it forces us to think about our death. Yet, it’s something extremely important for us to think about before we ever die. Reflecting on our death and the legacy we hope to leave behind can help determine the way we choose to live life here and now.
Think about it. If we die today, what will people say about us?
Some people may think they are leaving behind a “successful” legacy but in God’s eyes our legacy may be foolishness! Remember the Gospel story of the man who was so rich that he destroyed his barns to build larger barns so that he could store all his wealth, retire early, and enjoy a self-centered life of ease? The world praises such a life as a resounding success! Yet Jesus bluntly calls such a person a fool! In God’s eyes, this man’s legacy is one of self-centered luxury, and is simply foolishness in God’s eyes!
The great church father, Saint John Chrysostom, says, “A rich man is not one who has much, but one who lives simply and gives much. For what he gives away remains his forever.”
A legacy of generously giving to others, of giving especially to those in need is a legacy of success in God’s eyes! Humbly serving others is a worthwhile legacy. Sacrificially loving others is an eternal legacy. A lasting legacy is NOT one where we focus on ourselves or isn’t one where we enrich our families. A legacy that lasts into eternity is one about giving to others, loving others, and serving those in need. Remember Christ’s words at the Last Judgment - “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me.”
I’m thinking much about the theme of legacy as I reflect on my father’s passing on to eternal life 40 days ago. As my father’s 40-day memorial approaches, my mother and siblings and I have received so much mail highlighting the legacy of my father over these past weeks. Many people have told us stories of my father’s legacy of giving, of serving, of helping, of teaching, of inspiring, and of blessings others.
- If you err, err on the side of generosity.
- To whom much is given, much is expected
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love you neighbor
- See Christ in every person and love unconditionally, especially the downtrodden
- Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances
- Be the voice of the underdog
- Do the right thing and you will never have any regrets
These favorite sayings of my father, some of which come from Holy Scripture, along with the stories and anecdotes people shared in their letters, make me proud of my father’s legacy. Yet, they also challenge me to reflect on my own life and death, and think about my own legacy. What will people say about me one day when I leave this earth? What will they say about you?
No one knows when our time of death will come! I have prayed many funerals over the past 29 years as an Orthodox priest and I can honestly say that some people leave behind a beautiful legacy of loving others, helping others, serving others, and reaching out to others, while others leave behind what appears to be an egocentric legacy – doing only for themselves and their family. Being remembered for playing golf, or as an fanatic fan of some sports team, or being a financial success flouting your wealth with nice cars, expensive watches, and vacation houses, or having a passion for some entertaining hobby means little in eternity. These are not legacies to praise and lift up at the end of our lives.
So, what legacy are you leaving behind? Remember, we want a legacy that will last into eternity!
If we are serious about creating a legacy, we should honestly reflect on what passionately drives us here and now in our lives. What consumes our time and where do we put our money? Is our life about making more and more money and living a comfortable, self-centered life? Is our life focused too much on politics or some political party or agenda, and our time is consumed with FOX News? What consumes our lives here and now because whatever we are passionate about now will form the legacy we leave behind after we are gone.
Jesus Christ clearly warned all of us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” How many of us can honestly say that above all else, the greatest passion and pursuit of our lives is seeking first God’s heavenly kingdom, seeking before everything else an intimate, loving relationship with our Creator? Honestly, isn’t this the most beautiful legacy to strive for and cultivate every day?
Saint Paul has always been one of my favorite saints, so much so that Pres. Faith and I named our first child after him. I love this Apostle for his life story and drastic conversion, for his inspiring writings in Holy Scripture that have instructed and guided generations of Christians, and especially for his passion and love for Jesus Christ. “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me… For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Saint Paul’s final words, written to his disciple Timothy shortly before he was martyred, define his legacy: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day.” (2 Tim 4:7-8)
Saint Paul proudly highlights that his legacy was a life of faith. He stayed faithful in the long and arduous race of life. He faced many extreme challenges. He struggled with temptations. He suffered terribly throughout his life. Yet he persevered throughout life with hope and love. He completed his race with faith!
That’s the greatest legacy to leave behind – staying faithful in following God, fulfilling His will, and loving Him above all else in life. To love of God and love of our neighbor is the greatest legacy a faithful Christian can establish in their lives!
So, what is the legacy you hope to leave behind? A legacy that is quickly forgotten or a legacy that lasts into eternity, inspiring all those whom you leave behind.
Today, let’s turn our attention to the legacy we are creating here and now. How do we want to be remembered? What are we doing now to create a meaningful legacy that will endure throughout history and into eternity?
Ultimately, there is only one legacy that will last into eternity and that is a legacy based on divine love – love for God and love for our neighbor; love for one another, love even for our enemies, and love especially for those in need all around us. A legacy of love is never inward turned and egocentric, not a love only for those who love us, for our family and friends. Instead, a legacy of love that lasts into eternity is a divine love which touches and reaches out to every person we encounter.
This is the legacy which my father, Father Alexander Veronis, left behind. He lived out Saint John Chrysostom’s words, “A rich man is not one who has much, but one who lives simply and gives much. For what he gives away remains his forever.”
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