Aparecida on the Good News of the Gospel

brazil-popeThe central second part of the Aparecida Document explores “the Life of Jesus Christ in Missionary Disciples,” examining holiness, communion, and formation. But before it engages these discussions, its first chapter (chapter three of the document) is on “The Joy of Being Missionary Disciples to Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The heart of these chapters is that the Gospel really is good news – the five main sections of the chapter examine different kinds of “good news”:

3. The Joy of Being Missionary Disciples to Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ

    a. The Good News of Human Dignity

    b. The Good News of Life

    c. The Good News of the Family

    d. The Good News of Human Activity

        i. Work

        ii. Science and technology

    e. The Good News of the Universal Destiny of Goods and Ecology

    f. The Continent of Hope and Love

We need to discover the joy of the Gospel, a joy that gives life both to us and to those with whom we share the Gospel. Without this joy, without discovering why the Gospel really is good news, we have nothing worth preaching, nor the joy that can sustain us in mission.

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There is a careful balancing act here. On one side stands religion: the highest truth is that only God can satisfy our hearts, and only Christ can give us the freedom to know God as Father. We must let nothing stand in the way of our discovering this, the “one thing necessary.” We mustn’t be too like Martha, “anxious and troubled” about things that don’t ultimately matter.

On the other hand, religion is falsified when it does not truly bring liberation to us, in our humanity. The joy of Christ is not a denial of our humanity, but its fulfillment. To know the Father who made us is to find the fulfillment of everything he made. To know the Son who became incarnate is to discover that our humanity really can be a place of meeting the Father. To know the Spirit who sanctifies us is to know that we – what we are, our real humanity – really can be sanctified. There can be no dualism that leaves our humanity behind in our quest for God.

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Thus the Gospel of Jesus Christ is also “the good news of human dignity.” To know Christ is to know how precious the human person is. Political “rights” talk can never do justice to the Gospel – rather, the Gospel reveals the inner truth of human rights. The deepest truth is that human life is of infinite dignity, because it is made, in its humanity, to know God. Our real dignity is not the “right” to be left alone, but the right to be cherished as one created and redeemed for eternal union with God.

So too the Gospel is “the good news of human life.” We are pro-life, St. John Paul emphasized in his great encyclical “The Gospel of Life” not only because we think abortion is a crime, but because we think human life is a great good. Everything about life is ordered to meeting Christ: even birthday parties and days on the beach.

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Thus next in the document comes “the good news of the family,” marking out one of the key areas of human life. The family is the place where life begins and where life mostly happens, and around which life revolves. It is the place of moral growth and of celebration, and it is the first and primary place that we learn to find joy outside of ourselves. Family is a gift from God, made to lead us to God.

So too “the good news of human activity,” both work and science and technology. This is just another aspect of being human: and this too comes forth from God and is meant to lead us back to God.

Finally, “the good news of the universal destiny of goods and ecology,” which is a concrete way of saying, the good news of political community, of living not just for ourselves, but as part of a greater community. Obviously there is a lot to work out here, in the social doctrine of the Church. But by calling it “good news,” Aparecida emphasizes that the God who made us for himself also made politics as a place of meeting him.

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This chapter ends by calling America to be “the continent of hope and love.” Hope and Love are virtues of our relationship with God – but they are also virtues of our relationship with others.

A truly Catholic world is a world of good news, a world of affirming the infinite dignity of human life.

This gives us a lot to think about, about what evangelization means. It is not just about sharing a marginal bit of doctrine. It is about sharing the truth that everything authentically human is a place of meeting with God.

How does your life communicate to those around you the good news of human life?

Click here to read the entire series on the Aparecida document.

eric.m.johnston

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