The final paragraph of this chapter on “Missionary disciples” is a short reflection on the face of Christ in the suffering.
In the face of Jesus Christ, dead and risen, bruised for our sins and glorified by the Father, in this suffering and glorious face, we can see with the eyes of faith the humiliated face of so many men and women of our peoples, and at the same time, their calling to the freedom of the children of God, to the full realization of their personal dignity and to brotherhood among all. The Church is at the service of all human beings, sons and daughters of God.
There is a footnote to the text referring to two paragraphs of Pope John Paul II’s 2001 Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, which speak of contemplating the face of Christ – both suffering and risen:
25. In contemplating Christ’s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross. The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostrate ourselves in adoration ….
28. As on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the Church pauses in contemplation of this bleeding face, which conceals the life of God and offers salvation to the world. But her contemplation of Christ’s face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One! …
What is an important addition in Aparecida to this understanding of contemplation of the Holy Face is the identification of the face of the poor with the face of Christ.
Pope John Paul II, in his inaugural discourse at the 1979 Puebla conference of the Latin America Bishops, had identified “the poor, the needy, the marginalized,” as “those whose lives reflect the suffering face of the poor.
But in the Puebla document, paragraphs 31-39, the bishops made this identification concrete:
31: “This situation of pervasive extreme poverty takes on very concrete faces in real life. In these faces we ought to recognize the suffering features of Christ our Lord.”
They then list, among others, young children, youth, the indigenous, campesinos (peasants), laborers, the unemployed and underemployed, marginalized and overcrowded urban dwellers, old people.
In paragraph 65 of the Aparecida document the bishops also list the faces of those who suffer. The list is more inclusive on Aparecida and includes drug-addicts, those with tuberculosis and HIV or AIDS, migrants, and prisoners.
This identification of the face of the poor with the face of Christ is part of the Church’s tradition. Note the stories of saints, beginning with St. Martin of Tours, who discover that the person they have helped is really Christ.
The emphasis on the face points to the tradition of devotion to the Holy Face of Christ. In Latin America the faces of the poor reflect the face of Christ. Some of this can be seen in the art that has arisen from a liberating pastoral practice. One can see much of this in the work of the Claretian priest Maximino Cerezo Barredo, some of which can be found here, here, and here. Cerezo Barredo has images for every Sunday of the three cycles of the liturgical year.