Opportunities, Decisions, and Legacies

For most of us, the opportunities are small and quiet. They come in our home, with our family and friends, at our job, or in our parish or community. A decision is presented to us. Perhaps it’s a question of telling the truth when it’s against our interests. Or going out of our way to help a friend, family member, or stranger. Or being faithful to our marriage vows, or to keep our promises. We have to decide — for God’s way, or not.

Each of us has a lifetime of these opportunities. Every day we have a chance to decide, and together, they make up our legacy. Because the decisions we make will be small and quiet, they will be known to very few. But God, who sees the secrets of our hearts, will know of them all.

For others, though, the opportunities will be large and prominent. They are called to the public stage, and their decisions are more momentous, and have an effect far beyond their immediate circle. They attract more attention, and have an enormous potential to teach others, for ill or good. Because of this, their responsibility is much greater, and their legacy will rest largely on what they do on that public stage.

But, the basic choice that has to be made is always the same — for God’s way, or not.

These are the thoughts that came to my mind in the aftermath of the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy. He was certainly called to the public stage, the largest one our nation offers. His years of public service offered him innumerable opportunities to make decisions for God’s way, or not. His decisions are public, and can be evaluated to determine his legacy.

Much ink has been spilled already offering praise to Sen. Kennedy for his commitment to the poor and to a vision of social justice. But in one area — the most important area in which he was called to make decisions — his choices were not admirable, and indeed were greatly to be lamented. In one area, he had an opportunity to promote authentic social justice for all, and for the least among us.

During his time in the Senate, Sen. Kennedy had one hundred thirty-one opportunities to vote on issues relating to abortion and other life issues (stem cell research, cloning, etc.). That number doesn’t even count committee votes, of which there must have been many, since he served for years on the Judiciary Committee. He voted pro-life only four times, and only once since 1977. Pause for a moment over that record of decisions. Think about the subject matter — partial birth abortion, parental notification, destruction of humans in the embryonic state for medical experiments, paying for abortions for poor women, promoting abortion abroad, and on, and on.

One hundred and thirty one times, he had a decision to make: for life or against it. And he made his choices. And he gave his example. And he taught people.

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At the end of our days, every one of us will be called to judgment for our decisions. At the moment of our death, we will appear before Our Lord, and be judged based on our love. Then our Lord will have a decision to make, which will determine our real legacy.

Let us pray for the merciful judgment of Our Lord upon the soul of Edward Kennedy. And let us pray that we may make good decisions, every day — for God’s way, and for no other.

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