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Sunday, 04 October 2020 07:00

3 Precious Pearls - The gifts of poverty, chastity and obedience

 2020.44.3 Precious PearlsMain Blog Image

As a woman consecrated to God, living and probing the depths of the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience is a mind-blowing reality.

In my novitiate I read a story about St. Francis of Assisi and a vision he had before receiving the stigmata. The Lord appeared to St. Francis and asked him to give a gift.  Perplexed by this request, Francis replied that he had given up everything for the sake of the Kingdom and that he had no further gift to offer. At this, the Lord asked him to give the three pearls that were within him. Confused by what the Lord meant, Francis said that he had no pearls. In the end, the Lord asked him to give the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience – that these were the three pearls that he possessed. This story stood out to me from my novitiate and I found it amazing that the Lord considered the three vows as a gift, that a person who is living them can offer to God.

While still in high school, the manner in which Jesus lived his earthly life - of not owning anything, loving everyone around him and being obedient to the will of the Father - sounded to me like a great way of living, and the deep inner freedom of such a lifestyle was very attractive to me.

This teenage view however deepened radically when I joined the sisters in Australia, leaving my home country of Sri Lanka. When I was awakened to the fact that Jesus left his heavenly home in his incarnation, it occurred to me that Jesus knows what it is like to leave your homeland, and the poverty that goes with this. We often read as part of the Gospel Acclamation, “Jesus Christ was rich, but he became poor so that out of his poverty we could become rich.” Jesus knows what it is like to let go of what you possess for a greater purpose.

This realization brought me more in touch with the ultimate self -emptying of Jesus. The Kenosis or the self-emptying of Jesus that is found in Philippians 2:6-8 became more real for me.

“Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Jesus knows the detachment that was necessary in loving all people and the cost of letting go of loved ones. Jesus knows the cost of letting go of his will to do the will of the Father. The culmination of poverty, chastity and obedience took place for him on the cross in a much more real way.

Jesus was stripped off from everything when he was hanging on the cross and it was the pinnacle of his poverty. He was loving all people and above all his Father, to sacrifice himself on the cross which was his ultimate response of chastity- a love that sacrificed himself. He was obedient to the Father even unto death, and that was the climax of his obedience.

As Missionaries of God’s Love, we are centered on the message of Christ crucified, we are drawn into this same mystery of Christ’s response on the cross in the living of our vows. I know at a head level that the climax of the living of my vows is giving the same response as Christ crucified. However, when it involves a death to self and there is pain that goes with it, I realize that it is not livable with my own strength. Surely, the love that I have for Christ is at the heart of my willingness to undergo such a death. But over the years I have realized this one truth - that this life of consecration is possible only by grace and that it is a purely a gift.

Again and again there had been times when the grace of God has lifted me up in this journey. The three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience lived by the aid of grace will inevitably become a gift to God if I am aware of its magnitude. My three vows will become like three pearls that St. Francis was asked to offer.

Ayanthi Perera