“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord.” These are the words of St. Paul in today’s first reading.
Who are the influential people? According to Paul, we all are. We might not think it. We might not like it. We might not notice it. But we all influence each other.
Influence can be benign or malign. Old Fagan in “Oliver Twist” used his influence to corrupt the boys who looked up to him. St. John Bosco used his influence on the boys entrusted to his care to draw them closer to God, to educate their minds and hearts, to give them a future.
But it’s not just grown-ups who influence others. A little child can move the heart of a cynic. A child with Down’s syndrome can bring immense love to a family. The sound of a boys’ choir singing the Ave Maria brings a tear to the eye.
This shows that the influence we have on others can be intentional (as with Fagan and John Bosco) and unintentional (the little child). Who we simply are as well as what we say, think or do deliberately, sends “waves” of one kind or another to those around us, for good or for ill.
This means that the more we become who we truly are in the sight of God, the more we will influence others benignly. Our presence itself will radiate the waves of the grace we have been gratuitously given and we have willingly received. The positive contribution of one person can direct a tense stand-off towards a peaceful resolution. A negative comment can sour an entire meeting.
St. Paul goes further when he says that, not only our lives, but also our deaths influence others. What family is not left grieving by the death of a mother or father? Are not many people moved to change something in their lives as the result of the loss of a loved one? Then there are the martyrs who shed their blood for the truth and love of Christ. Their blood is the “seed of Christians” as an ancient writer expressed it. In the end, to live for the Lord and to die for the Lord is the greatest influence we can have on others.