Aparecida, the synod of May 13-31 of 2007, was opened by Pope Benedict XVI. Upon returning to Rome, Benedict commented to the effect that it represented a blueprint for the way of the Catholic Church of the future.
In the introduction to the concluding document, it reads that the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean have met in Aparecida, Brazil “to advance the evangelizing action of the Church, which is called to make all its members disciples and missionaries of Christ, Way, Truth, and Life, so our peoples may have life in Him. We do so in communion with all the particular churches in the Americas.”
Let me comment immediately that the goal of evangelization is not the communication of doctrine in a culture that is contrary to the Truth and Person of Christ, or even open to the Truth and Person of Christ. Rather, it is a positive, personal involvement with persons affirming them and being available to them, and so communicating Life to them. Evangelizing takes place person to person. It is a personal experience of meeting one to another which is totally oriented to providing an encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ Who is the explanation of this positive affirming and availability. Aparecida says it this way: “Here lies the fundamental challenge that we face: to show the church’s capacity to promote and form disciples (not primarily ideas) and missionaries who respond to the calling received and to communicate everywhere, in an outpouring of gratitude and joy the gift of the encounter with Jesus Christ. We have no other treasure but that. We have no other happiness, no other priority, but to be instruments for the Spirit of God as Church, so that Jesus Christ may be known, followed, loved, adored, announced, and communicated to all, despite difficulties and resistances. This is the best service, his service! – that the church has to offer people and nations.” If I am out of myself and there to serve, Christ becomes known by the persons encountered knowing me. “We want the joy that we have received in the encounter with Jesus Christ, whom we recognized 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 alone the roadside asking for alms and compassion. The disciples’ joy serves as remedy for a world fearful of the future and overwhelmed by violence and hatred. 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. 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.” Our self-giftedness is the Word spoken to them that makes Him known.
In #9 of the document, it speaks of “a new step in the church’s journey, especially since the ecumenical council Vatican II.” In #11, it speaks of “a deep and profound rethinking of its mission and a relaunch(ing) (of) it with fidelity and boldness in the new circumstances of Latin America and the world. The goal is not to reiterate “worn-out ideological slogans.” The goal is not simply to think or to talk or to have Ecumenical Councils, or Synods but in many ways to go to the peripheries to encounter people with your persona. Thedocument was thought and written by Bergoglio. It is emotionally charged. Having experienced Francis as pope, one gets a feel for the document – which Benedict (I repeat) sees as the future way. And what is new is to actually do it. The text should be read.
To save time, I propose from my reading of the document: the goal is to live and build the faith of Latin America and the world. What is new, perhaps, for the man in the pew is that faith is an act of the whole person. It is giving of the entire self to Christ, and in return, one becomes “another Christ.” It is not primarily ideological but existential and personalist. It is a self-giving which is mimicking of the self-gift of Christ crucified, and in that mimicry, a likeness of experience where one experiences in oneself what Christ experienced in Himself. Baptism is physical touching of each of us by the incarnate God which empowers us to make the self-gift.
So, as St. Francis put it: Evangelize, and sometimes use words.