An Encouraging Word — Two ultimate questions

Give and it will be given to you. Luke 6:38

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

As I mentioned last week, over the holidays I got the opportunity to watch the 2007 movie, “The Bucket List,” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It is about two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kicked the bucket.”

In one of my very favorite scenes, they are both sitting on one of the pyramids in Egypt. Morgan Freeman’s character says to Jack Nicholson’s character, “You know the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven … the gods asked them two questions. Their answer determined whether they were admitted or not. The questions were: Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?

I thought these two questions would be a great theme for my annual personal retreat on New Year’s Eve. This has been something I have been doing most of my ordained life, something I look forward to every year.

Have I found joy in my life? Has my life brought joy to others?

I am pretty confident that I can answer both questions with a resounding “yes.” As I think back over my life, the thing that comes to mind most readily is a deep sense of amazement. Coming from a pretty humble background, I am amazed at the people I have met, the places I have been and the opportunities that I have been given.

Yes, I have found joy in my life. I have found it in the great privilege of priesthood. George Bernard Shaw sums up best the joy I have found in life: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap.” Even though I have not always measured up to the ideal, I don’t know anybody with whom I would trade vocations.

Has my life brought joy to others? If the answer was “no” I would have to admit that my life has been a total waste. The whole point of being a priest is to bring joy to others. If I did not believe that I have been able to be a conduit of joy, I would have to assume that a lot of people have been lying to me for a very long time.

These questions are not really independent questions. They are interdependent, aren’t they? Bringing joy to the life of others brings joy into the life of the one bringing it.

Here I am reminded of the woman who held the title for the most marriages in the “Guinness Book of Records.” I think she was married 18 times. When they asked her what had happened, she responded, “All I ever wanted was someone to love me.” Maybe if she had only wanted someone to love, she might have had better luck!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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