Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Congratulations graduates on your achievement. You managed to finish four years of expensive babysitting, ostensibly designed to prepare you for life, even though it bears absolutely no resemblance to it. Well, except for the fact that most of you have racked up inordinate amounts of debt with very little of value to show for it. That part resembles life quite well, actually.
These speeches are called commencement addresses for a reason, they are supposed to be about the beginning of things. You have completed one thing and now you begin another, real life.
Every commencement, by statute, must talk about this moment as the beginning of an incredible journey, and it is, a journey. So let’s talk about this journey. Every worthwhile journey must have a worthwhile destination. Many commencement speakers will tell you that it isn’t about the destination, that the journey is the real destination and it doesn’t really matter where you are going.
That’s a load of bollocks.
The destination matters, believe me. The further along on the journey you get, the more you realize this. The destination matters. So as you begin on the journey, let’s talk about the destination.
You are going to die.
Yup. Every last one of you is going to die and by the look of some of you after last night, that moment can’t come soon enough. Am I right?
So, you are going to die. None of you can escape it and none of you knows when it will happen. That is your destination. Dead. Buried.
However, most of you know or believe that death is not the end. Oh sure, you tell pollsters that you don’t believe it and you have spent the last four or five years living like you don’t believe it or ingesting enough intoxicants that you can forget it for a bit, but you believe it. You know you do.
So, you know that you are going to die and you believe that death is not the end. So you know that there will be that moment when you stand before the judgment seat. I know that judgment is something that your curriculum and your professors have told is very bad. But that doesn’t matter to the Person sitting in the judgment seat. And no matter what your Comparative Myth professor told you, He gets to judge you whether you like it or not. And no amount of self-esteem or belief that you are “a good person” will have one bit of influence on His perfect judgment.
This is your destination folks. Dead and standing before the judgment seat with nothing less than eternity in the balance. What is it you young people are so fond of saying? Just keepin’ it real.
You will stand before the judgment seat. That is real and unavoidable. And you will be judged.
So, since now you know your destination, let’s talk about the journey.
Every decision that you make from here on out will decide what happens at the judgment seat. Every decision you have already made will decide what happens at the judgment seat. Sorry. Yes, that dorm party with the Cap’t Morgan’s spiced rum junior year counts.
Every lie you will tell and every lie you have already told--counts. You know that you have told thousands of lies already in your short, expensive, and unproductive lives--including what you told your parents this morning about what you did last night. All those lies, they all count, forever. You know what you call a person who has told thousands of lies? Yup, a liar. Gold stars for everyone.
And fornication…stop giggling, yes that is still a word. You know all those things you did that you convinced yourself were part of the college experience and consequence free? Sorry, you were sold a bill of goods. There is no such thing as consequence free. You know what they call a person who has done the things you have done so many times? Yes, they are called fornicators.
I could go on, but since you are graduates now, I think you get the point.
So here is one other thing your professors probably didn’t mention. Do you know what happens to liars and fornicators at the judgment seat? Bad things man, bad things.
And one last thing. There is not one thing you can do on your own that can remit even the tiniest little sliver of guilt that you have. Not one single thing.
But, there is good news, literally. The Gospel, Jesus, He did what you could not do for yourself. He earned your forgiveness. All you need to do is accept that, ask for that forgiveness, and then live as if it matters, because it does. It actually matters more than any other thing that you might think matters but doesn’t. Live like Jesus’ sacrifice matters, because if you don’t--it won’t. You do not want to stand before that judgment seat, before that Judge and tell him His sacrifice does not matter. Trust me on this.
If you live your life like Jesus matters, if you live your life like Jesus, you will make it to your destination.
Still, as this is a commencement speech, I feel as if I should impart upon you some additional nugget of hard-earned wisdom.
If I have learned one thing that has made my life better while I work out my salvation in fear and trembling, it is this. Be open to life. The world will give you a million reasons to not to be, don’t listen to them.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, lies on their deathbed and in a faint whisper of wisdom says, “I wish I had less children and more money. I wish I spent more time at work. I wish… arghhhh!”
Every decision that I have made for life, no matter how scary or expensive, has made my life better. Every single one. There are so many things in my life I wish I could take back, openness to life, children, has never been one of them.
So that’s it. This is all you need to know as you begin your journey.
You are going to die.
Live like Jesus matters, because He does.
Openness to life will make you happier.
That’s it. Now commence.