20 Sep September 14th
Today we renewed our vows. Before each sister pronounced her vows Mother Mary of St Joseph gave a very thought provoking chapter of which an extract can be found below.
“Pope St John Paul II (in Redemptionis Donum) takes as his starting point the gospel story of the rich young man (Mark Ch. 10). Seeing that the young man was already doing all that was commanded , “Jesus, looking upon him loved him”, and invited him to go further, to embrace the evangelical counsel of poverty and to follow Him. Each of us can say in truth that at the first dawn of our vocation, Jesus looked upon me and loved me, and offered me the same choice: “If you would be perfect
… The response required of the young man in the gospel involved four actions: Go – sell – give – come. In order to follow Christ in perfect freedom he was asked first to step back, to look at what was filling his life and to sell it all. Then he was to impoverish himself still further by giving away the proceeds and, stripped of everything, to return and follow the “good Master” with a liberated heart and a lighter step.
We may feel that we have already done all that is required. We have left the world of material concerns; we have made a vow of poverty; we have no bank account, no possessions; we know that even the habit we wear does not belong to us. But the annual renewal of our vows encourages us to focus, not on what we have done but on what we might yet do.
Jesus, looking upon each of us today and loving us, says to us, If you would be perfect, go, sell what you still have…”. He asks us to follow him in the self-emptying by which he brought about the world’s redemption. It is for each of us, then, to examine what we still have that we have not yet given, or what, over the years, we have gathered to ourselves again after our first renunciation. As a community, we need to be vigilant, in an age when modern technology can offer us everything, steadily undermining our commitment and our witness to poverty. As individuals, we need to look courageously at how we can further empty ourselves, grasping at nothing, however trivial, that could hinder our following of the poor Christ, who did not hold on even to His equality with God, but made himself our servant.
Each one of us knows where our attachments lie. If, in material things, we are too insistent on our own tastes and preferences, too dependent on some small possessions, then we are not yet following Christ in His poverty. If we are concerned with guarding our own space, our time, our freedom; if we cling to our individuality, “This is who I am. This is the way I do things”, then we cannot be one with Christ in His self-emptying. But we are called to this. We are vowed to this. “If you would be perfect…”
If we can let go completely of our small earthly treasures, we are promised “treasure in heaven”. And Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity reminds us the heaven is where God is, and God is in our soul. The treasure our hearts will know, even in this life, is an ever deepening union with the one who first looked on us and loved us, and we will follow Him, the world’s Redeemer, in greater freedom, peace and joy.