Pope Francis has certainly been making the news. Many love his compassionate manner, humble attitude, love for the poor, and rock solid courage in speaking the truth of Jesus, which is as countercultural today as it was 2,000 years ago. His overall message makes us stop, think, and examine our ways.
All Christians who sincerely want to follow Christ will, to a certain extent, be countercultural. There are many things we love and support about our culture, but there are some traits that are destructive and need to change. Being countercultural does not mean being negative. Jesus was countercultural by living and teaching positive values quite different from the norm of his day, values like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility and service.
Religious, too, are called to be countercultural in their following of Jesus. And while the vows and religious life are often viewed from a negative stance (“what can’t Sisters do,” students often ask), they are really very positive.
In a culture that encourages accumulation of wealth and the newest and best of everything, religious, by their vow of poverty, profess another way of dealing with possessions: sharing, living simply, putting money and property “in common,” trusting God for all that is needed. In a culture that glorifies selfish pleasure and sexual gratification, religious choose to commit to Jesus as their primary love relationship, and strive, like him, to bring love to all, including those deemed unlovable by society. In a culture where autonomy and individualism are venerated, religious make a vow of obedience, discerning together how they will be available for their shared mission.
Being countercultural is truly a positive way of showing our world that the values of Jesus are worth living for.