Are not the words “missionary” and “disciple,” in reality, opposites? It seems, on the one hand, that “disciple” implies remaining with, being with: passivity, contemplation, learning, etc. On the other hand, “mission” seems to imply just the opposite, a being sent, going out, going forth: activity, work, doing, etc. Pope Benedict XVI also comments on this apparent contradiction, saying, “Being with Jesus and being sent by him seem at first sight mutually exclusive...” Can these words legitimately stand together? If so, how?
This article, though unable to provide a comprehensive study, will survey the main lines of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching on discipleship in order to further draw out the contours of missionary discipleship, the reality highlighted by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (nos. 119-121). This brief study will first trace the basic elements of Benedict’s understanding of discipleship, before exploring the connection between discipleship and spiritual christology made possible in Jesus’ filial communication (i.e. prayer), and the implications of what Ratzinger calls “pro-existence” on discipleship.