The Influence Of A Life
I read some time ago of a railway president who died, and at the hour of his funeral every train on the entire system stopped for a minute, every workman stopped working, every telegraph key was silent, everything connected with that great system had paused for that hour. It all fell silent-except the influence of the man in the casket.
A man’s personality never dies. The body may waste away, the light and flame of his life may flicker and die, but the man himself never dies. His personality lives on to the end of time. Plato, and Socrates, and Washington, and Lincoln, have fallen, but these men all live on. The bodies of Marx and Lenin turned to dust, but through their revolutionary philosophies they have more influence today than Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and these men's followers. The influence of such men lives on. When lives are turned to subtle and harmful ways, one can never recall their influence. One might gather up every copy of Charles Dawrins, Origen of Species and burn them, but you could no more destroy the influence of that book than you could bottle the Atlantic Ocean. If there is a resurrection of the just, there is also a resurrection of the unjust, and some day every man must face the far-reaching influence of his life.
But we do not have to be discouraged about the influence of bad men who have died. For the influence of good men also never dies!
One of the most victorious scriptures in the writings of Saint Paul is found in his letter to the church at Rome: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. ” [Romans 5:10]. Oh, unparalleled, incomparable life of Christ! The question is still being asked today that was asked by Pilot, “What shall we do with Jesus?” His disciples through the ages have influenced the world. We think of John the Baptist, of John the Evangelist, of Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi , of Dominic de Guzman, of Anthony of Padua, of Thomas Aquinas, of Patrick of Ireland, of Thérèse of Lisieux, of Pio of Pietrelcina, of Joan of Arc , and a host of others who were bright and shining lights. The inscription on the tomb of one famous Christian, “He that doeth the will of God abideth forever” [1 John 2:17], applies to every man who walks in the steps of Jesus our Savior and Lord.
Then there are those who live in obscurity, who are unknown to the world, but they likewise have exerted their influence. We do not know the name of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, but he represents a mighty host of men and women who were loyal to their homes and to their country. Over many a grave in the parish grave yard could be placed the inscription similar to that of the Unknown Soldier, “Here lies a father unknown except to God”. “Here lies a mother unknown except to God.” We may not know the name of the Parish custodian who clean and handle basic repairs for all public-facing areas of the Parish. We may not know the name of the Nuns who taught the catechism to the likes of Fulton Sheen and others. We could go on and on about others whose obscure lives have influenced the world for the glory of God, but
I would like to look at two qualifications of life:Unselfishness and Faith.
These traits have enriched the world with heroic men and women of God. There is a vast difference between a selfish life and a great unselfish soul. The life of Cain was characterized by selfishness; of Abel by unselfishness [Hebrews 11:4]. Covetousness called out to Lot and said, “Choose the well-watered valleys”; unselfishness said to Abraham, “Take what is left” [Genesis 13:8-12]. Selfishness said to Orpah, “Kiss your mother-in-law good-bye” [Ruth 1:13-14]; unselfishness led Ruth to say: “Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee” [Ruth 1:16-17]. Selfishness said to Judas, “You have followed a lost cause; get what you can—thirty pieces of silver” [Matthew 26:14-16]; consecration and loyalty said to John, “Stand by the cross” [John 19:26]. Selfishness led Demas to forsake Paul [2 Timothy 4:10]; consecration and loyalty led Luke to stand by Paul to the end [2 Timothy 4:11]. We shall never cease to be grateful for men and women whose lives were a testimony of unselfish devotion.
Consider that other quality, Faith. The roll call of faith in Hebrews reveals such heroes as Abel, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and a vast army of others “Who by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, recovered strength from weakness, became valiant in battle, put to flight the armies of foreigners:” [Hebrews 11:33-34]. From Abel to the present time, men of faith have lifted the world out of despair. They have expected great things from God and have attempted great things for God. At your death, how will you have influenced your world, those at your work, at your parish your neighborhood, your home?