At least here on earth they are. That is the point of the first reading for today from the Book of Sirach:
Now will I praise those godly men,
our ancestors, each in his own time.
But of others there is no memory,
for when they ceased, they ceased.
And they are as though they had not lived,
they and their children after them.
Yet these also were godly men
whose virtues have not been forgotten;
Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants;
Through God’s covenant with them their family endures,
their posterity, for their sake.
And for all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out.
Eventually, there will be no remembrance of most of us, as Sirach mentions in verse 9. Think about it – no matter how hard a person tries to make a name for himself or herself they will most likely be forgotten within 100 years after their death (if it takes that long).
But, we might think – certainly there are people who have made a name for themselves. Yet often we only think that because we lack perspective. Take someone like George Washington. We might consider him to be an important historical figure, but that is primarily because we were born in America. What percentage of the 1 billion people who live in China do you think have ever heard of George Washington? Of those who have how many do you think count him as an important, giant of history?
Even if we make a name for ourselves, we would likely only do so within a very limited sphere of influence. Now, I am not intending this to be overly negative. It just presents us with the question of what is really important. Moreover, what is it that we should be teaching our children?
I think the point we could take from Sirach is that if the only remembrance that will be left of us here on this earth after we are gone is in our families, then our families are where we should focusing the majority of our time and attention (see verse 13).
Many of us would say that our families are among the most important things in our lives, but does the way in which we use our time really reflect that? I believe that is something for us to think about today.