The Aparecida Document’s seventh chapter, the first chapter of its third and final part, examines “The Mission of the Disciples in the Service of Full Life.”
Part Three: The Life of Jesus Christ for Our Peoples
7. The Mission of the Disciples in the Service of Full Life
a. Living and Communicating the New Life in Christ to our Peoples
i. Jesus at the service of life
ii. Varied dimensions of life in Christ
iii. At the service of a full life for all
iv. A mission to communicate life
b. Pastoral Conversion and Missionary Renewal of Communities
c. Our Commitment to Mission Ad Gentes
In order to understand this chapter, this week we will examine the four subsections of section “a,” next week we will return to consider the whole chapter.
The bigger purpose of this chapter, and of the whole document, is to understand the real meaning of “mission.” What does it mean to be truly missionary?
There are two sides to this question. First, what is a real missionary? What does a real Christian missionary bring to others? Second, why do Christians need to be missionaries? What does mission have to do with my spiritual life?
The title of this section, “Living and Communicating the New Life in Christ to our Peoples” addresses that second question. First, it ties together “living” and “communicating.” On the one hand, we cannot communicate what we do not live. If we do not find our lives in Christ, there is no point trying to be missionaries of Christ. We communicate more by who and what we are than by any words we may preach. Words are necessary, but they make little sense if our lived witness contradicts them.
But on the other hand, can we really live without communicating? Does it make any sense to say that I think Christ is the way, the truth, and the life – but only for me? Christian life without mission, in fact, is a kind of relativism, a denial of the truth of Christ. If I really believe Christ is life, I must communicate that to others!
Second, the title of this section ends “to our Peoples.” And there is simply a recognition that I am part of a people.
It is perhaps easier seen at the level of family. If I find my life in Christ, and I am a part of a family – if my life is really tied to that family – how can I not share that life with the people to whom I am bound!
And so too if I am part of a neighborhood, of a parish, of a nation, of any community, if those really mark part of who I am, how can my life in Christ not spill over, how can I not communicate that life to my communities?
Mission and true life go hand in hand.
But what kind of mission? The first subsection proposes “Jesus at the service of life.” We are returning to a previous theme. If Jesus is truly our savior, truly our life, then he is the savior of our entire life, everything about us. Jesus affects, and perfects, and restores every aspect of human life.
Of course, in so restoring it, it will be changed. He might restore my desire for movies by redirecting it to something richer; might change my desire to rise from poverty to a desire to help those who are truly poor. He does not leave us unchanged.
But he does perfect us, in all our humanity. To say Jesus is life is to say – Aparecida quotes Pope Benedict – “The new life of Jesus Christ touches the entire human being and develops human existence in fullness ‘in its personal, family, social and cultural dimensions.’”
Thus true life in Christ, and true communication of that life, must celebrate “varied dimensions of life in Christ.” To tell people to embrace Jesus without showing how he perfects every aspect of life is simply not to live or communicate the fullness of the Gospel.
So too if we are not “at the service of a full life for all.” If Jesus is savior, he is savior of all of human life, every aspect of ourselves, and of every human life. The fullness of the Gospel must be preached, to all men!
Aparecida tells us, “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.” Let us discover the fullness of life by sharing Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, in all his fullness, with those around us.
Think of someone in your life who does not know Jesus as Savior. If you were to tell them he is life-giving, what parts of your life would you need to show that through?