When your life is over, what will be your legacy?
What proof will you leave behind to show you helped built up Christ’s Kingdom?
After Mother Teresa died in 1997, they found a beautiful saying on her wall that motivated her every day to keep building the Kingdom in beautiful new ways. It read:
“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
When we leave a worthy legacy, we do it because God calls us to do it. When we build up the Kingdom we may face scorn and persecution. Our legacy may not be appreciated by all.
As Jesus says today, “You will be hated by all because of my name.” He’s preparing his disciples for the final judgment. But even in time of darkness there will be a great light: The “sun of justice with its healing rays” as we heard in today’s first reading.
The context for today’s Gospel message is 50 years after the death of Christ. Luke wrote his Gospel after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Jewish dream had died and it was a time when Christians were being persecuted all over the Mediterranean for their radical message of love taught by Jesus.
This Christians were building up the kingdom in the most challenging of conditions… and they didn’t even blink.
Today’s Gospel message could just as easily be for anyone committed to building up the Kingdom today – anyone committed to building a legacy of love.
Christians were despised for their actions in the Roman world. They were despised for loving the way Christ loved.
When plagues ravaged cities in ancient Rome, who helped care for sick and dying? It wasn’t the Romans. They ran the other way. It was the Christians who ran into harm’s way, many giving up their lives helping others.
On the streets, Christians were known for being willing to die for their beliefs.
If you ask most historians why Christian persecutions came to an abrupt end in the early 4th Century, most would say society no longer tolerated Christians being put to death in the public arena because Christians were respected for their actions. These people were respected for living the life of Christ.
If we fully live a life for Christ today, what does that look like?
Imagine a parish community so committed to good works and loving people so fully that no one is left behind, everyone is spiritually fed, and all come back for more… week in and week out.
Imagine a parish community that lives out its faith so beautifully that non-Christians despise us and persecute us and our other Christian sisters and brothers envy us.
In so many ways today, our neighboring “mega” Churches are doing a better job of sharing Christ with others.
But let us not forget the Catholic Churches rich history of sharing Christ with the world.
The Catholic Church is responsible for the first hospitals and hospices. The Catholic Church is responsible for the first colleges and universities. The Catholic Church is responsible for the first homeless shelters and orphanages.
But you say, we live here in Everett, Washington, this is as good as it gets when it comes to Catholic Churches.
While what we have here is good, I believe we can do better. I believe we can become great.
There’s a parish in a town not so dissimilar to Everett, Washington, that’s doing it right.
The town is Centennial, Colorado, with a population a little over a hundred-thousand people. It’s a suburb of Denver. Denver and Seattle are actually ranked right next to each other on the listing of America’s largest cities.
And Everett has almost the exact same population as Centennial at 100-thousand residents.
But wait until you hear what this parish in Centennial is doing.
St. Thomas More Parish is really doing it right.
They have FIVE priests! A pastor and four parochial vicars.
They have SEVEN deacons. You heard me right, seven deacons!
The Church serves 45-hundred households. We serve just over 2-thousand households in both parishes.
The Church has produced 15 priests, 10 deacons, three sisters, one brother, and currently is forming 11 seminarians from the community.
In the past year, they’ve done 97 infant baptisms, 344 first communions, 353 Confirmations, 22 marriages and 246 Catholics have received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
They have seven “packed” Masses each week, Perpetual Adoration, a weekly Holy Hour for Vocations and an incredible website and bulletin chocked full of helpful information and resources.
So, how can we become that parish? We can only do it together as a community. We can only do it if we all step up and give… and give… and give.
But, if we do it, if we create this community and live out Christ’s mission for all to see, not only will we become the envy of our Christian sisters and brothers and the scorn of non-Christians, but we also will be pointed to by the Archdiocese as a model for doing it right.
I believe we can become that Church here in Everett and commit myself to rolling up sleeves and making this dream a reality.
(Introduce Stewardship of Treasure Cards)
There are many ways you can help us get there. You can increase your giving.
You can commit some of your estate to the parish’s future.
Our two churches are probably a decade away from needing major renovations. As we build this new future, I’d like to ask our sisters and brothers who are blessed abundantly to consider building up this Kingdom as you prepare for the next.
Perhaps our goals are too lofty. Perhaps you think why should I give more? I already give enough.
But if we do not dream big, if we do not work with all of our heart and soul to make a vibrant Kingdom here in Everett a reality, aren’t we letting Jesus down?
I see a future faith community so vibrant, so thriving that we will be “hated by all because of (His) name.”
We may die trying to build this beautiful Kingdom of God, we may be persecuted as we live out Christ more fully here in Everett, but that’s OK because, “By (our) perserverance (we) will secure (our) lives” in the world to come.
What is God calling you to give? What will your legacy be in this community?
On behalf of Father Hersey, I want to thank you, thank you, thank you for your generosity.