Today we begin the third and final part of the Aparecida document. The first part, “The Life of Our People Today,” remember, planted us firmly in history, surveying the situation of the world we live in. The second part, the central and longest one, “The Life of Jesus Christ in Missionary Disciples,” considered what it means to be a Christian, culminating in the chapter on formation, “The Formative Itinerary of Missionary Disciples.”
Part Three turns us as missionary disciples back to the world in which we live: “The Life of Jesus Christ for Our Peoples.” Aparecida is constantly focused on keeping the faith real. This is not an abstraction lived in private, but the reality of human life, lived out in all the aspects of our life. To be missionary is not a marginal aspect of faith. It is where faith is proved, where we show that we really believe it.
And to believe that Christ is truly life for us is to believe that he is life for all men. Remember that the first chapter of “The Life of Jesus Christ in Missionary Disciples” – the life of Christ in us – considered all the ways in which Christ is Good News. He is not just one part of life. All that is human finds its perfection in Christ: that chapter had sections on human dignity, life, the family, work, science, material goods, even ecology. It called for Latin America to be a “the continent of hope and love.” A truly Christian society is one permeated by the goodness of Christ, in every aspect.
Part Three asks us to take what we have found in Christ back to our world:
Part Three: The Life of Jesus Christ for Our Peoples
7. The Mission of the Disciples in the Service of Full Life
8. Kingdom of God and Promoting Human Dignity
9. Family, Persons, and Life
10. Our Peoples and Culture
These chapters work out in concentric circles. The first gives the principles, summarized in the word “life.” The Church is pro-life. That means, of course, first of all that we are opposed to anything that is directly contrary to life: murder in all its forms, including the insidious murder of unborn children.
But, as John Paul II explains in his magnificent encyclical Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life,” we are opposed to murder because we embrace the goodness of human life. Life is worth living. Human life is a good because life itself is good.
Consider, for example, how one could say, “our joy is in heaven, so it doesn’t really matter if life is terminated.” Ah, but it does matter, because heaven is not opposed to our natural life, it is its fulfillment. We would have a wrong vision of heaven if we thought that it meant the goodness of human life doesn’t matter.
And we would have a wrong vision of Christ. John Paul II’s first encyclical focused on Christ as Redemptor Hominis: the redeemer of man. He said the theme of his pontificate would be, “the way of the Church is man.” All that is authentically human belongs to Christ, and is fulfilled in Christ. Christ is “at the service of full life,” as Aparecida puts it – and so too are we.
Thus the first chapter of specifics focuses on “human dignity,” and the good of the individual. Any vision that treats human individuals as not mattering is an anti-Christian vision. Anti-Christ, we can even say: a denial that Jesus is the fulfillment of man, the savior of every man, the lover of man.
Here Aparecida will treat the “preferential option for the poor and excluded,” and look at “suffering faces that pain us”: street people, migrants, the sick, the addicted, and the imprisoned. Jesus says what we do to these, we do to him. As Archbishop Chaput often puts it, if we do not love them, Jesus is very clear: “we will go to Hell.” Christians care about every individual.
But we care, too, about human community, where individuals flourish, and so the next chapter is on “family,” considering the many relationships that make up a truly human life: children, adolescents, the elderly, men and women, and our relationship to the land itself.
The last chapter extends this out to its final culmination: “our peoples and culture.” He who embraces the fullness of human life, and who believes Christ is the fulfillment of human life, believes that Christ is the answer to the biggest questions of politics and culture. The true missionary disciple – the true believer – takes his faith even there.
When elements of life do you think too few Christians see in connection with the goodness of Christ?