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Gospel Imperatives

The backbone of Christian life is made up of the “gospel imperatives”, that is, the virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience. In this reflection, Fr. John explains how each person, regardless of his/her social and vocational status, can live his/her existence in line with these three qualities.

In order to know how to become truly active in mission, we consider the challenges of Holy Scripture and of Pope Francis regarding a truly Christian life. These are some we find in Holy Scripture: “Walk before me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1); “Be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 19:2); and “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

We respond to the biblical imperatives by celebrating life adopting the style that Jesus inaugurated and fulfilled. Every lifestyle must have a backbone not to wither and die. I believe that the backbone of life according to the style of Jesus is made up by the “gospel imperatives”: chastity, poverty and obedience lived according to the status of life of each person. 

Chastity, in order to live going beyond what our senses can control, and living within the experience of God’s love cherished and shared with all people; poverty, in order to proclaim Christ as our greatest treasure, beyond human power and human alliances living in simplicity of life and sharing; and obedience, in order to say yes to the lead of the Spirit and do the will of God.

At the heart of this lifestyle is the “universal call to holiness” proclaimed by Vatican II as one of its most basic messages and presented by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exultate. In n.1 he says: “He (the Lord) wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.”

I would say that all Christians are called to live the “gospel imperatives”. Naturally, we ask: what is the distinctive sign of those men and women who are consecrated by God and offer themselves to Him as religious?  Religious are those people who, called by God, take the “gospel imperatives” and profess them as vows, according to the solemn commitment demanded by the religious consecration and according to the spirit of the different congregations.

Living their consecration, religious men and women are an inspiration to all people. This is what has been called the prophetic aspect of Consecrated Life that include three "imperatives": 

1. Imperative of chastity
To live chastity, it is necessary to contemplate Christ Jesus. In the chastity of Jesus we see two dimensions: the vertical one for his total belonging to the Father, and the horizontal one for His being the gift of salvation to all people. In the context of mission we imitate Christ and we live these two dimensions. 

2. Imperative of poverty
This imperative asks us to trust in God convinced that He will take care of us giving us what we need to live a dignified life and to serve people according to what He desires. Moreover it asks us to be convinced that salvation does not come from human possessions but only from God as we live in simplicity loving people and in using things. 

3. Imperative of obedience
This imperative shows the liberating beauty of a filial dependence on God and leads us to say a sincere yes to the Spirit in our lives. We pray then in order to know the will of God and put it into practice with the desire of making Jesus loved by all in the world. 

Considering what I have written about life according to the “gospel imperatives,” I have prayed that each one of us may make his/her own the cry of Saint Francis of Assisi: “This is what I ask (in prayer), this is what I desire (with my whole heart), this is what I want (with my will power) strengthened by the Spirit.” 

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