O.P.: “Out of Place… Obedience and Poverty
Religious men and women are admirable in consecrating their lives for the sake of the gospel. They ‘denied’ themselves by leaving their families, possessions, and even their personal dreams of enjoying life. They ‘carried their crosses’ during their formation years – their struggles, crises, and adjustments and up to this time they still ‘carry their crosses’ with smile on their lips while actively doing the ministries they embraced. The life they chose to live is not an easy one. They have sacrificed a lot and tried to live outside their comfort zones. What is more astonishing about them are the three common vows they professed that they observe all their life with joy. I have already made a reflection on the vow of Chastity. This time I’ll share my reflections on Obedience and Poverty.
On Obedience… It is incredibly difficult to obey. As I recall my experiences, I can say that I have been a very disobedient son to my parents and a hard – headed student to my teachers. All I know is that my reason for not obeying them is better compared to their own reasons. Most of the time, I do not want what they ask me to do. I want to do the opposite. I was able to reminisce my ‘naughtiness’ when the vow of obedience was discussed to us. One virtue that I found within this vow is the virtue of humility. One can never be obedient (on religious context) without at first struggling to be humble. Our intellect and understanding may significantly contradict to what is being asked of us. We may even argue that the tasks being assigned to us are irrational, totally stupid, and extremely impossible to carry – out. These thinking are sometimes product of pride. Obedience is part of the vows being professed by the religious. This vow allows them to truly surrender their entire will to God by being obedient to their superiors; taking the superiors’ directions as God’s will for them. This vow enables the professed to emulate the example of Jesus Christ’s submission to the Father’s will. This vow does not limit and never intends to limit one’s freedom; rather, it frees the person to great extent. In the many stories I have heard about the Brothers, the one that amazes me most is their ‘happy yes’ to their new assignment. They are happy and excited in accepting their new task whether it is a familiar one or extremely ‘alien’ for them. They know how to accept with joyful heart because of their strong commitment to the Lord when they vowed obedience. Presently, I am trying my best to live this vow by being happy to where my director assigns me; by ‘stretching myself’ and going out from my comfort zones and by obeying wholeheartedly for my good and the good of my brothers in our community.
On Poverty… No one wants to live in poverty. It’s not desirable. I guess no one dreams to be poor and suffer humiliation and deprivation. Students study in order for them to have a quality life in the future. People work to satisfy both their needs and wants. Almost everyone tries to get rid of experiencing financial or economical poverty. We see a plethora of poor people elsewhere in the Philippines. Though we don’t live in poverty, we feel what they feel and we can’t help ourselves but to be compassionate and loving towards them that’s why we initiated numerous projects to somehow alleviate their temporal suffering. We see the negative effects of poverty, yet in our modern times, there are still people who ‘desire’ to be poor – and be poor for the rest of their lives. They are the men and women of faith who courageously responded to Christ’s call of forgetting one’s self for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Some of them came from wealthy or elite family, while some have average background. They all surrendered their dreams for themselves and families in following their religious call. Living in poverty enables the religious to be detached to the things that are ‘passing’. Material things are not bad; even these can glorify God if used properly and reasonably. Poverty as being lived by the religious today has some disparities compared to the extreme poverty lived by the great people of the Church many centuries ago. Different congregations vary from their practice and witness of poverty depending on their charism and ministries. Religious are able to live in complete dependence on divine providence and contentment. This vow helps them to be happy on what they have and not have. This vow reminds them on what is more essential in this life – that is to serve God and our neighbor.
Obedience and Poverty are two formidable vows to live, yet the church has produced hundreds of saints who embraced these same vows. Though they are sinful, they were able to rise on their weaknesses and live just like Jesus Christ. ‘Surrender’ to God’s will is the key.