Aparecida 156-157: More on Communion

What is communion, anyway? What’s the connection to missionary discipleship? The bishops develop this theme a bit as the fifth chapter continues …

156. The vocation to missionary discipleship is convocation to communion in their church. There is no discipleship without communion. Given the temptation, very common in contemporary culture, of being churchless Christians and the tendency for new individualistic spiritual searches, we declare that faith in Jesus Christ reached us through ecclesial communion and that it “gives us a family, the universal family of God in the Catholic Church. Faith releases us from the isolation of the ‘Me’, because it leads us to communion.”(Benedict XVI, Aparecida Introductory Address, 3) This means that a constitutive dimension of the Christian event is belonging to a concrete communion in which we can be part of an ongoing experience of discipleship and communion with the successors of the apostles and with the successor of Peter.

“Churchless Christians,” an interesting term. I’m not sure I would agree that most spiritual searches are leading people to a deeper individualism. Many aspects of evangelical Christianity, so-called new-age movements, and even atheism have significant social connections that attract people who did not and do not find such “communion” in their Catholic upbringing or search.

Pope Benedict also gets us off on the right foot. The very nature of Christianity is a belonging to an actual, real life, flesh-and-blood community. I don’t think the internet or social media completely fulfill this. The experience of communion is a tangible one. It involves people we see and hear in treal time; friends with whom we bend an ear to listen or embrace in solidarity.

A word on the priesthood of all believers:

157. Upon receiving faith and Baptism, we Christians accept the action of the Holy Spirit who leads to confessing Jesus as Son of God and calling God “Abba.” “By means of the common priesthood of the People of God,”(Ibid. 5) all of us who are baptized in Latin America are called to live and transmit communion with the Trinity, for “evangelization is a calling to participate in the communion of the Trinity.”(Puebla Document, 218)

This is important, and not at all an invasion on clerical status and privilege. By definition, a priest assists others in their connection to God. We see this happen ritually at Mass. We experience a priestly ministry anytime another human being intercedes for us with God, brings us to God, helps to make firm and real and personal that connection to Jesus.


For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 154-155: Communion

Today, we commence with Chapter Five, “The  Communion of the Missionary Disciples in the Church.” This examination will take us from these paragraphs to number 239, probably a month’s worth of posts.

Theme one, “Called To Live In Communion.” We begin with the Lord’s example of developing a relationship with his closest companions. The Scripture citations below list not only the Twelve, but also the seventy-two disciples. Though unnamed, these are the forebears in faith that point the way for the activation of the baptized Christian in the world. Let’s read:

154. At the outset of his ministry, Jesus chooses the Twelve to live in communion with him (cf. Mk 3:14). To foster communion and evaluate the mission, Jesus asks them: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6:31-32). On other occasions he will be with them to explain the mystery of the Kingdom to them (cf. Mk 4:11; 33-34). He does the same with the group of seventy-two disciples (cf. Lk 10: 17-20). It would seem that being alone with them means that Jesus wants to speak to the heart (cf. Hos 2:14). Likewise today the disciples’ encounter with Jesus in intimacy is indispensable for nourishing community life and missionary activity.

The Aparecida bishops speak of “intimacy.” It is important to recognize the importance of prayer, and the personal and persistent commitment to cultivating a relationship with God. The question might come to mind daily, “Where have I see you in my experiences today?” Prayer is a beginning, but something else is also needed: an awareness that God works in unseen, unexpected ways as we live and move through a day’s experiences.

Human companions help us in this:

155. The disciples of Jesus are called to live in communion with the Father (1 Jn 1:3) and with his dead and risen Son, in “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13). The mystery of the Trinity is the source, model, and goal of the mystery of the Church: “A people united by the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” called in Christ “like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race.”(Lumen Gentium 1) The communion of the faithful and of the particular churches in the people of God is based on communion with the Trinity.

It is not a stretch to say that the experience of the Church as a people is a sacrament. It’s true by a broad application of the classic definition (instituted by Christ to confer grace).

It’s a good thing to begin to think of Communion in multiple ways, and not just as something a Catholic may “get” as a reward for Mass attendance. Communion is fostered by prayer, experienced among people, and even across the entire people of God. Reflection on this point will likely get us much closer to an understanding of the Trinity than any theological treatise.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 153: Life In The Sacraments

The initiation sacraments, far from being a withdrawal from the world, is a means by which God communicates to disciples and draws us into a deeper communion with the Trinity:

153. This reality becomes present in our life by the work of the Holy Spirit, who also gives us light and life through the sacraments. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation we are called to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ and we enter into trinitarian communion in the Church, culminating in the Eucharist, which is fountain and project for the mission of the Christian. “The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the center and goal of all sacramental life.”(Sacrosanctum Concilium 17)

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 151-152: More On Life In the Spirit

It was a phenomenon of the New Testament Church, their experience of the Holy Spirit:

151. The Church as marked and sealed “with Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11), continues the work of the Messiah, opening the gates of salvation for the believer (cf. 1 Cor 6:11). Paul states it as follows: “you are … a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor. 3:3). The same and only Spirit guides and strengthens the Church in the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of faith, and the service of charity, until the Body of Christ attains the stature of its Head (cf. Eph 4:15-16). Thus, through the effective presence of his Spirit, God assures until the parousia his offer of life for men and women of all times and places, pressing forward the transformation of history and its dynamisms. Hence, today the Lord continues to pour out his Life through the work of the Church, which with “the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Pet 1:12) continues the mission that Jesus Christ received from his Father (cf. Jn 20:21).

Note the lyrical nature of these passages. This isn’t something that can be worked out by reason alone and thus explained. Gates are opened for us; we pass into a new place. Disciples are letters written by God for the benefit of those with whom he is trying to communicate. Liturgy and charity draw us–the Body–to Christ, our Head. Our mission is no less than a transformation of human history.

152. Jesus transmitted to us the words of His Father, and it is the Spirit who keeps the Church mindful of Christ’s words (cf. Jn 14:26). From the beginning, the disciples had been formed by Jesus in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:2); in the Church, the Spirit is the inner Master who leads to the knowledge of all truth, forming disciples and missionaries. That is why the followers of Jesus should let themselves be constantly guided by the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:25), and become impassioned for the Father and the Kingdom: proclaiming the Good News to the poor, healing the sick, consoling the sorrowful, freeing the captives, and proclaiming to all the Lord’s year of grace (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

We are nudged, urged, directed to the preaching of Christ. The advent of his public ministry in Luke 4:16-30, the citation of Isaiah, as well as the curiosity, the doubts, and the antagonism are all part of a whole, an inaugural event, if you will that tells us much of what the Lord’s intentions are with regard to us. Not to mention the consequences of all of that.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 149-150: Enlivened By The Holy Spirit

The fourth and final theme of Chapter Four, the call to holiness, “Enlivened by the Holy Spirit.” Christians, and sometimes Catholics in particular, are mystified by the role of the Spirit. Saint Luke’s is the most illustrative of the Gospels, but Saint Paul is well-cited in these first two paragraphs given to this theme:

149. At the outset of his public life, after his baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the desert to prepare for his mission (cf. Mk 1:12-13), and with prayer and fasting, he discerned the will of the Father and overcame the temptations of following other paths. This same Spirit accompanied Jesus during his whole life (cf. Acts 10:38). After his resurrection, he communicated his life-giving Spirit to his own (cf. Acts 2:33).

150. Starting at Pentecost, the Church immediately experiences the fruitful interventions of the Spirit, divine vitality expressed in different gifts and charisms (cf. 1 Cor. 12:1-11) and varied offices that build up the church and serve evangelization (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28-29). By these gifts of the Spirit, the community extends the saving ministry of the Lord until He again is manifested at the end of time (cf. 1 Cor. 1:6-7). The Spirit in the Church shapes firm and courageous missionaries like Peter (cf. Acts 4:13) and Paul (cf. Acts 13:9), indicates the places that must be evangelized, and chooses those who must do so (cf. Acts 13:2).

The early Christians had such a profound experience of God’s grace and agency in supporting their adoption of Christ’s mission and ministry they could not explain it by their own talents and skills alone. The situation remains the same for missionary disciples today. We see the mission continue in spite of our own flaws and inadequacies. how else to explain what is accomplished but through God?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 147-148: The Invitation To Holiness

With these two paragraphs, we draw this modest exploration of the Reign of God and the missionary emphasis of those who consider themselves as disciples of Jesus. First, a reminder that in the Lord’s example, he went everywhere, to anyone, and all were issued the invitation to come and follow:

147. Jesus went out to meet people in very different situations—men and women, poor and rich, Jews and foreigners, the just and sinners—and invited all to follow Him. Today he is still issuing the invitation to find in Him the Father’s love. Accordingly, the missionary disciple must be a man or a woman who makes the Father’s merciful love visible, especially to the poor and sinners.

Why specially these people? It is part of the nature of the Father, as the Son describes him, to experience joy at the return of one who was lost. There is no *wink wink* toward the favorites, the older siblings.

This citation from Pope Benedict helps us understand the “journey toward holiness.”

148. In sharing this mission the disciples journey toward holiness. Living it in mission leads them into the heart of the world. Hence, holiness is not a flight toward self-absorption or toward religious individualism, nor does it mean abandoning the urgent reality of the enormous economic, social, and political problems of Latin America and the world, let alone a flight from reality toward an exclusively spiritual world.(Pope Benedict XVI, Introductory Address 3)

For us mortals, none are holy on their own merits. It is always a process, a conversion that continues throughout our lives. It is not about a retreat from the world around us. Jesus’ example in gravitating toward sinners, the needy, the poor, illustrate the Divine attitude to people. Yes, there are moments of contemplation, of worship, and of marshalling one’s energies. But eve n the Transfiguration was followed by a moment of coming down from the mountain and confronting real needs of real people who were being invited to their own journey toward holiness.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 145-146: On Christian Humanism

The mission of Christ cannot be reduced to something bottled and sold, like a commodity:

145. When awareness of belonging to Christ grows by reason of the gratitude and joy that it produces, the eagerness to communicate the gift of this encounter to all also grows. The mission is not limited to a program or project, but it is sharing the experience of the event of the encounter with Christ, witnessing it and announcing it from person to person, from community to community, and from the Church to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8).

Person-to-person is obvious. Many saints were quite effective in this, a personalism that included the person of Christ. I’d be interested to know what the bishops mean by a sharing from one community to another.

From the introductory address to the Aparecida conference:

146. Benedict XVI reminds us that:

The disciple, founded in this way upon the rock of God’s word, feels driven to bring the Good News of salvation to his brothers and sisters. Discipleship and mission are like the two sides of a single coin: when the disciple is in love with Christ, he cannot stop proclaiming to the world that only in him do we find salvation (cf. Acts 4:12). In effect, the disciple knows that without Christ there is no light, no hope, no love, no future.(IA 3)


This is the essential task of evangelization, which includes the preferential option for the poor, integral human promotion, and authentic Christian liberation.

A healthy humanism here. Other comments?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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