“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
“A thousand generations of Jedi live in you now.”
- Luke Skywalker to Rey
In the final installment of the Star Wars saga, released last December, the last Jedi knight, Rey, is told that she is the heir of the great tradition of the Force that was guarded and handed on by the Jedi knights of old. A vast chain of masters and apprentices, guardians of peace and justice throughout the galaxy, the Jedi represent the hope of the peoples of the entire galaxy; and in this final episode, Rey accepts that mantle, in order to hand on that legacy. With that power, it seems, she has defeated the force of evil incarnate, represented in the Emperor of the Sith – a final victory of good over evil.
Link by link, a legacy is both forged and handed on. Link by link, the values and virtues that are upheld are developed and perfected and shared. And this is no isolated thing. You and I are also part of such a legacy – in fact, we are part of the legacy: the very life of God.
When Jesus teaches today that those who receive us receive Him, and those who receive Him receive God Himself, He is placing us in a most significant position. We are identified by Jesus as His representatives – His Apostles (that is, “ones who are sent”) – and that our activity, and people’s response to our activity, is actually God’s work – with eternal consequences.
Therefore, our attitudes and behaviors toward others are never neutral – they are never insignificant. Even if it is simply offering a cup of water, our deeds echo in eternity, as part of that vast chain, that legacy that Jesus shares with us. Every act of kindness, every smile, every attempt to cheer others, to comfort them, to soothe them – all of these are meaningful in a salvific sense. Conversely, every act of violence, of exclusion, of hatred, of prejudice, even of sarcasm and derision – these too have an effect in our destinies.
How do we foster in ourselves an awareness of this tremendous responsibility for our Christian legacy? We need to look beyond ourselves, beyond our agendas, beyond even our own comfort. As Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother…son or daughter…and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Jesus is calling us to selflessness. He is inviting us to imitate Him – to be humble and giving of ourselves as He was. This is where those little acts of kindness and consideration come from.
The woman at Shunem showed this, when she made accommodations for Elisha when he would come and stay. She cared about him and went out of her way to see to his needs; and this became a source of blessing for her and her husband. We can show this too – not by remodeling our homes, but by attending to the real needs of others. As a parish, we do this through our outreach with St. Vincent DePaul, our Haiti collaboration, and through the recent food distributions that we have hosted.
However, it is even more than that. We show this same care and concern for others when we wear a facemask even when we are healthy and when it is inconvenient; we show it when we check in on neighbors, relatives, and friends during this time of separation; we show it when we offer kind words instead of critique in our conversations and discussions. These little acts – often performed for “one of these little ones” – are part of our Christian legacy. They are how we represent Jesus, who represents God the Father.
We have inherited a beautiful legacy – a legacy of service and care for others, a legacy of the Gospel. You and I have been entrusted with this legacy, and we bear it in ourselves, in every act. These actions have eternal ramifications, for us and for others. No one of us is insignificant, we are not unimportant. You and I represent Jesus Christ to the world. How they receive Him – if they receive Him – will depend on our kindness, understanding, patience, and love. Without these gifts, we cannot carry on this legacy. Generations of Christians live in us right now – Christians like Saints Peter and Paul, like St. Francis and St. Catherine, like St. Juan Diego and St. Junipero Serra, like Mother Teresa and John Paul II. They pray for you and me; they root for us.
May our witness to this legacy draw others to Christ. It is important work – but work that promises the greatest of rewards.