Yesterday the Redemptorist community in Davao- composed of Redemptorist priests and seminarians - had a recollection day. We spent the whole day reflecting and sharing on the theme: "Evangelical Poverty."
As religious, one of the vows we have professed is the vow of poverty. For the last 30 years, I have tried to live this vow.
One the questions that I have tried to answer since the beginning of my religious life is how can we live the vow of evangelical poverty.
At the outset we need to clarify that evangelical poverty cannot be equated with material poverty or destitution. Material poverty is not a virtue in itself nor should it ever be glorified or romanticized. The majority of our people who are poor want to be liberated from poverty. It is a social problem that has to be eradicated if not minimized. it is part our our mission as Christians and as Religious to help improve the condition of the poor so that they will no longer live in poverty and will have a decent standard of living.
What then is the meaning of evangelical poverty?
It is first of all a matter of acknowledging our trust and dependence on God's loving providence. It is God and his kingdom that we treasure above all. We seek first the kingdom of God. All our energies are spent in the service of God's kingdom and not in the pursuit or accumulation of material wealth. It is God that we serve, not Mammon.
In carrying out our mission of proclaiming and building up God's kingdom, we embrace the condition of those to whom we are sent - especially the poor. It means accepting discomfort and even suffering. It means living simply. We cannot live in luxury amidst so much poverty.
This does not mean that we reject technology and the modern means of communication and transport. We need these to carry out our mission.
Evangelical poverty requires a spirit of detachment from our material goods and resources, and to share these with one another in our religious community and with the poor to whom we serve.
This means making an option for the poor, being in solidarity with them in their struggle to transform society.