EG 271: Making a Good Impression

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, offers a raft of Scriptures that contradict the conservative Catholic narrative that people should look at the virtuous as if they’re from another planet. Like we shouldn’t make a good impression at all. Which, don’t you know, is a sure sign we’re doing it all wrong:

271. It is true that in our dealings with the world, we are told to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns. We are told quite clearly: “do so with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15) and “if possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18). We are also told to overcome “evil with good” (Rom 12:21) and to “work for the good of all” (Gal 6:10). Far from trying to appear better than others, we should “in humility count others better” than ourselves (Phil 2:3). The Lord’s apostles themselves enjoyed “favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47; 4:21, 33; 5:13).

If in doubt, check the context of each of these citations. The Holy Father suggests to just do it:

Clearly Jesus does not want us to be grandees who look down upon others, but men and women of the people. This is not an idea of the Pope, or one pastoral option among others; they are injunctions contained in the word of God which are so clear, direct and convincing that they need no interpretations which might diminish their power to challenge us. Let us live them sine glossa, without commentaries. By so doing we will know the missionary joy of sharing life with God’s faithful people as we strive to light a fire in the heart of the world.

And he reminds us this is not his idea, but a clear mandate in the Scriptures. What about all those passages of turning over tables and three versus two and two versus three. Better check those contexts carefully. Pope Francis seems to cite a number of passages correctly, and in the context of how believers and disciples can present themselves to the world. If indeed, they are willing to be joyful in the cause of the Gospel.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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