An Encouraging Word — Take charge of yourself

Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity. Ephesians 5:15-20

When I was preparing to preach on these words at the Bellarmine University Convocation Mass recently, I immediately thought of the great American poet, Robert Frost, who ends his famous poem, “The Road Not Taken,” with these memorable words: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Today, I would like to speak some of those encouraging words to all young Catholic men and women who are beginning college.

Students, you stand at a similar fork in the road. Each and every day over the next few years, you will have a whole series of important choices to make. As the road continues to fork, you will be free to choose from a variety of paths and each path you choose will have consequences. As you stand at each fork, weighing your options, you need to know that along with the freedom to choose will come the responsibility to choose wisely.

In the past, your parents made choices for you and forced you to accept them. Then, when things did not work out you could always blame them for the choices they made for you. Today, with the freedom to make your own choices, you must now accept responsibility for the choices you make and be ready to live with the consequences of your choices.

What happens if you do not watch carefully how you live, and blow this opportunity? It could be the difference between “having a life” and a joyless, dull, “survival” existence.

You could be one of those people whom Henry David Thoreau described when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

You could be one of those people that Thomas Merton spoke of when he said, “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

You could be like those John Greenleaf Whittier spoke about in his great poem, “Maude Mueller,” who look back on their lives with sad regret for opportunities missed. “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these, it might have been!”

There is nothing more stinging to live with than the knowledge of a great opportunity missed for which you, and only you, are to blame! The secret to making the most of this opportunity is for you to stand up to your own laziness and cowardice, to refuse to be ruled by your passions and addictions, to develop the personal discipline to delay gratification and to do hard things for your own good. In other words, you simply must take charge of yourself.

What happens if you do watch carefully how you live? Again Thoreau puts it quite clearly: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate himself by conscious endeavor.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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