Column by Jonathan Nagy
In early 2008, Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Dr. Randy Pausch published his famous book, The Last Lecture, based on the final lecture he gave his class in 2007, entitled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Everyone searches for what is important in life, and Dr. Pausch provided his perspective on the topic. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the book was a way for him to pass on advice to his children after his passing. Sadly, Randy passed away in July 2008, but his book and his lessons have been read by millions. While Pausch’s words and advice are truly inspiring, he left out the most important aspect: Jesus Christ.
A Google search for “What is important in life?” returned 13.5 BILLION results! There are many aspects of life in which individuals place importance. If this was Family Feud, and I was putting the top ten answers on the board according to that internet search, the answers would be health, family, friends, work, time, purpose, love, education, gratitude, and passion. Yes, all of these are truly important things in life, but just like Dr. Pausch, many leave God out of the answer to the puzzle. A different Google search of “Why is Jesus Christ important in my life?” produced 104 million answers. While that still is a large number, it is a far cry from the 13.5 billion referenced above.
Before answering the question of “Why is Jesus Christ important in my life?”, we have to be completely honest and first answer the question, “IS Jesus Christ important in my life?” That can be a tough question to answer! Do we make Jesus Christ a priority? Do we make time for Him? Is our relationship with Him the most important relationship that we have with someone else?
Yes, all of the answers to what is important in life may be accurate, but only if Jesus Christ is included in the solution. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I would like to address each of the top ten answers to “What is important in life?” by also showing how God does play a role in each, for which we are grateful.
Our health and wellness is extremely important in life, including physical, mental, and spiritual health. Our complex bodies and minds have been intelligently designed by God, who made us in His image and likeness. We need to take care of ourselves. He gave us the gift of life, and we need to cherish that gift, just as we would an important and meaningful present given to us by a family member or friend. We thank God for our life, health, and well-being, and work to improve and maintain it in all aspects as a sign of gratitude to Him.
Family is core to who we are. Parents and grandparents are key in helping to raise and develop children, providing them with necessary values and morals for life. We did not choose our family. They were chosen for us, and each person in our lives has meaning and purpose, positive and negative. The Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family, illustrating the importance of a family. Our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother, Mary, are always with us, as is our brother, Jesus Christ. Any family who invites those three figures in as one of their own understands what is important in life. We thank God for our families and pray for the strengthening of the family unit.
While we cannot choose our families, we are able to chose our friends. We find people with like interests whom we enjoy. Humans are social beings, and we appreciate the time we have with others. We should choose friends that are positive influences for us, and we should help each other to become better people. Some individuals keep a large friend group, while others like to keep a small friend group. As long as Jesus Christ is part of that group, good things will come of it. We thank God for the gift of friendship and seek out others who want to include Him in our groups.
One of the most common questions when meeting someone is, “What kind of work do you do?” People value and are proud of their work and do many great things. All kinds of work are necessary, and Jesus Christ emphasized the importance of work through many parables and lessons. However, we cannot let our work consume us to the point of being our entire lives. Jesus recognized the importance of work, but He also knew the importance of the other aspects of life listed in this article. He also knew that the best work was the work done for others. We thank God for the ability to work and to do good for others, helping each other to become better people,
Time is always moving. Time can never be recovered, rewound, or given a do-over. Time for us may seem like it has an infinite end, but it ultimately has a finite end. We are only given so much time on this planet to enjoy the gift of earthly life given to us by God. We need to make the best of that time so that we can hopefully achieve timelessness in Heaven with Him. Use time wisely, and always make time for Jesus Christ. Sometimes, when I am extremely busy and feel like I cannot accomplish all of my tasks, I still find myself making time for prayer or Eucharistic Adoration. That time with Jesus helps to put everything into perspective. We thank God for the gift of time and pray that we use it wisely for His purpose.
Speaking of purpose, everyone wants to know their purpose in life and the purpose of everything that happens in life. Humans are curious people, and our curiosity has assisted in discovering much. Sometimes, that curiosity has led to disastrous results, and for most of those occasions, God was not taken into consideration. He made each of us with a purpose, and while we may never understand that purpose while we are alive, God knows what we were designed to do for others and for Him. We thank God for giving each of us purpose in our lives and seek guidance in fulfilling that purpose.
Perhaps the most famous description of love comes from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Anyone who has been to a wedding has heard the words, “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous, it is not arrogant…” Saint Paul gives a very detailed description of love, concluding that love is the greatest gift we can give anyone. There are many ways to show someone we love them, but we need to include God in that love. A loving marriage must include God. A loving family must include God. A loving friendship must include God. Yes, we may think we understand love, but we cannot fully comprehend it unless God is part of the equation. We thank God for the ability to love others and to be loved, and through that love of others, we show our love for Him.
As a teacher, it may be a surprise to many that one of my favorite quotes of all-time comes from Mark Twain who once said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Most learning exists outside of a classroom. As mentioned earlier, we are curious people, and we want to learn more about the world around us while preparing us for the next life in Heaven. Jesus valued education, as He was called Rabbi, or teacher. We have to determine that the knowledge we are seeking is of goodness and will be of positive use for God and His people. We never stop learning. Even the great Saint Thomas Aquinas commented about learning, even up until his death, stating, “We can’t have full knowledge all at once. We must start believing; then afterward we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves.” We thank God for the ability to learn and for the gift of education. May we use that education for the betterment of ourselves and others.
As we approach the month of November and the holiday of Thanksgiving, many people reflect on what they are thankful for in their lives. This is a worthwhile exercise, as it helps to put into perspective what is truly important. As I have been doing throughout this article, we need to thank God for everything that we have in our lives, knowing that ultimately, everything comes from Him. It has often been recommended that before our feet hit the floor getting out of bed in the morning that we take a moment to give thanks to God for a new day and all of the blessings in our lives. We thank God for everything good in our lives, knowing that they are gifts from Him.
We must have passion and determination to keep fighting the good fight in life. It can become very easy to want to give up, but our passions drive us forward. We want to get the pay raise or promotion, we want to get a newer car, and we want to accomplish the tasks in front of us. We cannot do any of that without passion and determination. We must be just as passionate and determined with our faith and not give up when the going gets tough. Putting our trust and faith in God will renew that passion and allow us to continue forward. We thank God for making us passionate, inspired people, and we pray that we use that passion to fulfill His purpose for us.
Nothing in life matters if Jesus Christ isn’t included. We can answer that question of “Is Jesus Christ important in my life?” by seeing if He is included in the aspects which we collectively believe are the most important components of life. By making Jesus a priority in your life, you will discover what is truly important!
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Dean of Students and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.