Aparecida, Chapter Two: The Reality that Confronts Us

brazil-popeThe second chapter of the Aparecida document is perhaps the most challenging – or at least the most irritating. It asks us questions we do not want to consider.

We are considering the “The Life of Our Peoples Today,” in order to understand “The Life of Jesus Christ for Our Peoples,” and the Life of Jesus Christ in us, his “Missionary Disciples.” We want to know where it is he is sending us.

Last week we saw that he calls us to be missionary disciples. But this week, before we consider the life Jesus gives us for that mission, we consider Chapter Two, “The View of Reality by Missionary Disciples.”

If you are like me, the outline we are about to view might make you groan. Let me suggest that it makes us groan because we would like to be missionary disciples who don’t have to view reality. But a missionary disciple who does not view reality is no missionary disciple at all.

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Here is the outline:

2. The View of Reality by Missionary Disciples

     a. The Reality that Confronts Us as Disciples and Missionaries

          i. Sociocultural situation

         ii. Economic situation

        iii. Socio-political dimension

       iv. Biodiversity, ecology, the Amazon, and the Antarctic

       v. Presence of Indigenous and Afro-American peoples in the Church

  b. Situation of our Church at this Historic Time of Challenges

Notice that on the broadest level, we want to consider “the situation of our Church.” But to do this, we must consider the historic challenges we face in our time. We must face the reality that confronts us.

This makes for an interesting examination of conscience.

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Sociocultural situation. “Sociocultural” is a mouthful, but what it points to is the reality of our culture, especially as it relates to our social nature.

It points to the challenges of an increasingly anti-social culture, a world that because of technology and other things increasingly turns toward isolation and radical individualism.

But it also reminds us to take seriously the traditional social cultures around us, including the diversity of those cultures. To think seriously about the distinct ways of relating we find among Hispanics, blacks, and whites; among Easterners, Midwesterners, Southerners, Westerners, etc.; among the older and younger generations, small towns, suburbs, and cities. To go out in mission to the world, we need to be aware of these different ways of relating to society.

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Economic situation. Yes, we need to think too about economics. We need to take seriously the challenges faced by those who live in grinding poverty. Do our missionary efforts think enough about that situation? Are we as concerned for those feelings of hopelessness as the great saints of our tradition were?

We need to be aware of the way our riches impact us. Our softness, our sense of entitlement. There are many great things said today about the value of leisure; but we need to be aware, too, of the laziness that has set in to our fabulously wealthy culture, and the obstacles that presents to evangelization. Even our best religious orders have to adapt traditional practices to the softness of American kids.

And we need to be aware of the way economics shapes our relationships with other people. This is the reality that confronts us.

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Socio-political dimension. We need to think about politics. Yes, the standard turn-of-the-millenium American Catholic issues like abortion, marriage, and religious liberty. But also deeper problems.

We need to think about political responsibility. God made us social creatures. Do we take that seriously? Do we take the laws seriously – both our role in shaping them, and our role in obeying them? Do we worry enough about how our choices affect other people? Can we be missionaries, or even disciples, if we don’t?

And are we sufficiently aware of how our secular politics shapes our worldview? Are there parts of our lives where Democrat or Republican (or someone else’s) party lines matter more to us than the Gospel and Church teaching?

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Biodiversity, ecology, the Amazon, and the Antarctic. We live in a material world. We pass that world on to our children, and our children’s children. You don’t have to believe in global warming to understanding that the pollution of rivers and the ever increasing paving-over of the wilderness, even the uglification of our world, is our responsibility.

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Presence of Indigenous and Afro-American peoples in the Church. We don’t have as big of an indigenous, “Indian” population in the United States. But do we as American Catholics remember the African Americans?

What does it mean if the Catholic Church doesn’t ordain black priests, send missionaries to black neighborhoods, or think seriously about what it means for one group of our population, distinguished by the most superficial characteristic of all, has astronomically higher rates of murder, high school dropouts, poverty, incarceration, teenaged motherhood, and abortion? What idea of the Gospel, or the Church, or anthropology, have we accepted if these are not constant areas of concern to us?

Are we willing to face the reality that confronts us and the historic challenges or our times?

eric.m.johnston

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