Reading the Aparecida document, many times one can find themes which are central to Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, especially in this section of the Aparecida document, entitled “The Joy of Being Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ.”
The first paragraph of Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel reads: “The joy of being a disciple comes from an encounter with Jesus.”
Paragraph 28 of the Aparecida document reads:
In the encounter with Christ we want to express the joy of being disciples of the Lord and of having been sent with the treasure of the Gospel. Being Christian is not a burden but a gift: God the Father has blessed us in Jesus Christ his Son, Savior of the world.
The message is sharing Jesus whom we have encountered. But the joy is meant for all, especially those in need of help and compassion or who are beset by fear or violence. As the next paragraph states:
We want the joy that we have received in the encounter with Jesus Christ, whom we recognize as Son of God incarnate and redeemer, to reach all men and women wounded by adversities; we want the good news of the Kingdom of God, of Jesus Christ victorious over sin and death, to reach all who lie along the roadside, asking for alms and compassion (cf. Lk 10: 29-37; 18:25-43). The disciple’s joy serves as remedy for a world fearful of the future and overwhelmed by violence and hatred.
The bishops distinguish this joy of the encounter with Jesus as something that is not a mere feeling, that merely comforts me and makes me feel good. It is a joy that comes from faith – that comforts and moves out to share that joy. The joy of discipleship leads to mission.
The disciple’s joy is not a feeling of selfish well-being, but a certainty that springs from faith, that soothes the heart and provides the ability to proclaim the good news of God’s love.
The last sentence of this paragraph emphasizes the importance of the personal encounter with Jesus.
Knowing Jesus is the best gift that any person can receive; that we have encountered Him is the best thing that has happened in our lives, and making him known by our word and deeds is our joy.
In Evangelii Gaudium ¶120, Pope Francis noted a similar connection between the encounter with the love of Christ and our vocation as “missionary disciples”:
Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.