(3) Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey, he promises union with God.
The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master, and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people. The Third Order of the Society consists of those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, feel called to dedicate their lives under a definite discipline and vows. They may be female or male, married or single, ordained or lay.
The Franciscan way is a path of self-surrender and sacrifice, giving myself up to God and for others.
But what does ‘self-surrender and sacrifice’ mean in practice? There’s a lot of historical baggage attached to those words, baggage that tempts us to think in terms of hair shirts, self-flagellation, and asceticism of all sorts. Small wonder that Christianity is often condemned as joyless and life-hating.
The truth, as Francis was at pains to point out, is the precise opposite of that. If Luther was right about thinking of sin as being turned in upon oneself, the self-surrender that the Franciscan way calls for is the painful, gradual, sacrificial uncurling of oneself and turning outwards towards others. So self-surrender is really about learning to put others’ interests before our own. And those others are not just the usual suspects (family, friends, like-minded individuals), but the real ‘others’ of our society: the lonely and the loners, the bereaved and the suffering, the strangers and aliens (the economic migrants as much as the ‘deserving’ refugees).