Aparecida, Part Two: The Life of Jesus Christ in Missionary Disciples

brazil-popeNow that we have looked at how the missionary disciple looks at the world, we get to the heart of the Aparecida document, “Part Two: The Life of Jesus Christ in Missionary Disciples.” Part Three, “The Life of Jesus Christ for Our Peoples,” will take us into concrete applications. But first we take awhile to think about Jesus’s life for us.

The formation of the question is powerful. “I live,” says St. Paul, “yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). “As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eats me, he shall live by me” (John 6:57).

It is Jesus who live in us. This is the central teaching of Christianity: that he gives his own life, his own heart, his own Spirit, to be our life.

Aparecida puts this in a missionary key. Love God and love neighbor. “But God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If Christ is in us, he leads us to go out and share that life with others. To have the life of Jesus Christ in us is to be missionary disciples.

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There are four chapters in this central section of the document.

Part Two: The Life of Jesus Christ in Missionary Disciples

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

4. The Vocation of Missionary Disciples to Holiness

5. The Communion of the Missionary Disciples in the Church

6. The Formative Itinerary of Missionary Disciples

It begins with the good news. Chapter Three will emphasize that the Gospel is good news. It is good news that brings joy to us, but it is good news also for the joy of our neighbor. To truly discover the Gospel is to discover how it is not merely a thing I’m into, but the joy of all the earth. That takes digging, discovering. It means learning what the doctrines really mean, so that I can see that they truly are the fulfillment of my neighbor’s desires.

This isn’t just about rushing out to tell people. It’s about first discovering why this message really is joy, how it relates not just to my desires and convenience, but to theirs.

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But to discover this, to discover that the Gospel is really joy, really the fulfillment of every human desire, is to discover the call to holiness.

Like Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, Aparecida will talk about “vocations” – as in, vocations to the priesthood, religious life, marriage, etc. – when it talks about the Church as communion. We will see how profound an insight this is.

But first we must see that the true vocation, the only true vocation, which is the vocation of all people, is to holiness. This is what it really means to say the Gospel is joy. It means that the Gospel is worth living totally. It means that life cannot be fulfilled unless we truly make our life not our own, but the life of Christ in us. To see that the Gospel is joy and to see that our call is to radical holiness are one and the same insight.

And it is the same insight that drives us as missionaries: because not only do we want to be wholly transformed by Christ, but we know that our neighbor’s true joy and true holiness are one and the same.

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We find ourselves, then, in the communion which is the Church, the communion of saints. To long to be holy and to long to be one with Christ is to long to be one with all those who are in communion with Christ, and to long to be part of the transformation he works in the Church.

We give up our individuality in favor of participating in the Church of Christ. Or rather, we find our individuality precisely in being part.

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And all of this leads us to chapter six: the formative itinerary. We long to be formed by the Church. And we long to be formed, to really learn what holiness and missionary discipleship mean. But we can only understand the true meaning of formation once we have discovered that communion of sanctity which is the good news of the Church.

Where do you seek for joy apart from real, radical holiness?

Click here for the entire series on the Aparecida Document.

eric.m.johnston

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