Recently I celebrated Mass with the religious jubilarians of the Diocese – sisters, brothers and priests – who are celebrating special anniversaries of their religious professions this year. Although not all could attend, the anniversaries ranged from 25 years to 80 years! Can you imagine – 80 years of religious life! The celebration was an occasion to talk about the consecrated life, to thank the jubilarians for their devoted service, and to invoke God’s richest blessings upon them.
During the Mass the jubilarians renewed their solemn vows, their commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience. Solemn vows are also referred to as “evangelical counsels,” since they are rooted in the Gospel and are freely accepted in a desire to be completely conformed to Christ, the “chaste, poor and obedient One,” as St. John Paul has it. (Vita Consecrata, #18)
And while the commitment to the vows has special meaning for religious, there’s also an analogous sense in which every Christian is called to live the evangelical counsels; every Christian is called to be poor, chaste and obedient.
Poverty, at least poverty in spirit, is a key ingredient of the spiritual life. The accumulation of absurd wealth, the relentless pursuit of material security, and the unbridled desire for every faddish creature comfort – are obstacles to holiness. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus warned. (Lk 18:24)
Every Christian is called to be chaste, to live a life of purity in keeping with the demands of their particular vocation. How much suffering in the world today is caused by the failure to be chaste, to be pure: adultery, fornication, prostitution, human-trafficking, pornography, and out-of-wedlock births, come quickly to mind.
And a careful “listening” to others, a willingness to sacrifice our own wants and needs for someone else, especially a loved one, are common expressions of obedience. Spouses understand what obedience means every time they set aside their own preferences for those of their beloved. And parents are often “obedient” to their children, as they defer their own plans and dreams to provide a bright future for their kids.
So, while we salute the religious of the Church, and they renew their vows, let’s renew our vows too – to be poor, chaste and obedient – in imitation of Christ.
Something to think about: Of the three vows, poverty, chastity and obedience, which is the hardest for you to follow?