The free gift of Himself made by Jesus on the Cross is the cornerstone of our faith. Every good thing that we do is our response to Jesus’ sacrifice for us. In this we can see the Scriptural basis for what we call the three Evangelical Counsels that aid us in imitating Jesus’ self-giving: poverty, chastity, and obedience.
“This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.” Jesus is telling us that He is acting in obedience to the Father, and that the Father loves the Son for this obedience. Jesus obeys the Father out of love, and the fruit of that love is the freedom to give of Himself out of love. Obedience gives Jesus direction and purpose in his mission on earth.
We see in this same passage the self-emptying that is poverty. Though He has all the power of God, Jesus voluntarily empties Himself so that He can suffer and die for us. He divests Himself of his infinite gifts so that we might receive a share in his eternal life. This is the gift of poverty: we detach ourselves from the many gifts we have received so that we might be free to give those gifts to others in their time of need.
Lastly, we find the gift of chastity in Jesus’ whole gift of Himself to his vocation as Savior. Chastity is the focused gift of the whole self for one’s vocation. Jesus describes his dedication to us like that of a good shepherd: “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The total gift of Himself made by Jesus is the basis for our gift of chastity. A married man gives his whole self to his wife, holding back nothing from her and reserving his whole self for her. Similarly, a celibate priest or religious sister or brother will devote their whole selves to their vocation in total and exclusive self-gift.
Poverty, chastity, and obedience are gifts we give back to God in response to Jesus’ gift of Himself to us. May we live these Evangelical Counsels well in our particular vocations and give ourselves fully in acts of love for Christ and his Church.