What is obvious to Pope Francis as he writes in Evangelii Gaudium is at times not as central to believing Christians. In this section, he takes the Church to task for muddying the impulse to serve and lift up the needy:
194. This message is so clear and direct, so simple and eloquent, that no ecclesial interpretation has the right to relativize it.
Usually that “dictatorship” is singled out outside the bounds of the Body.
The Church’s reflection on these texts ought not to obscure or weaken their force, but urge us to accept their exhortations with courage and zeal.
For the faint of heart, a good distinction: we are urged, not forced, to consider the greater good.
Why complicate something so simple? Conceptual tools exist to heighten contact with the realities they seek to explain, not to distance us from them. This is especially the case with those biblical exhortations which summon us so forcefully to (filial) love, to humble and generous service, to justice and mercy towards the poor. Jesus taught us this way of looking at others by his words and his actions. So why cloud something so clear?
An additional nudge for the self-styled orthodox:
We should not be concerned simply about falling into doctrinal error, but about remaining faithful to this light-filled path of life and wisdom. For “defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them”.[CDF, Libertatis Nuntius XI, 18]
Pope Francis is correct in his diagnosis. But as a Jesuit, I feel sure he would invite believers to gaze strongly at the witness of the Word. Those Scripture passages he cited in EG 193 are a possible start. A Christian who has the slightest doubt about her or his engagement with the needy: grapple with those passages, examine one’s life, and see what the Lord personally asks of us.
The Holy Father is right. It is quite simple.