Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seek and Find

First Reading: Acts 17:15, 22--18:1
Psalm: Ps 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
Gospel: John 16:12-15


In today's reading, Paul is speaking to the Athenians. He begins his dialog with a very remarkable statement:
You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God.' What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. - Acts 22b-23
There are at least three important themes in these opening statements that we must take note of.

First, Paul has spent time getting to know his audience. In his lifetime, Paul was fortunate enough to be able to preach to many different cities over three missions in multiple different cultures. However, he stays a time with them to understand their lives and style of thinking in order to speak to them well. This is an excellent example for those who are called (as we all are) to share the faith.

Second, Paul notes that the people of Athens are very thirsty for faith in something, but do not know exactly how to quench that thirst. They have multiple shrines and, presumably in an attempt to be fair to all, they even dedicate an altar to they know not who/what. In our own time, we can see something of this. Many people drop from a structured religion and go off to practice their own "spirituality." They don't want to abandon faith, but they don't want to be confined to any particular set of beliefs. Some even go so far as to say that Jesus' teachings are simply one set in a large pool and that all lead to salvation.

Third, Paul begins to explain to the Athenians the message of the gospels. He is not satisfied with them simply trying to be religious. It is not enough for them to worship "unknown gods." His later comments tie in some of the things he has learned during his time in Athens, but they do not soften at all the central points of Christianity. He does not try to win over people to Jesus by compromising, or mixing his teachings with those of the pagans so that the people are more likely to accept them. Indeed, many of the scholars to whom he is talking laugh him right out of the arena when he preaches the resurrection (Acts 17:22). Likewise, we must preach the Truth and take care that it not become tainted with softened teachings.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of this day. We thank you for the example of the apostles; a model to follow when sharing your word. Lord, we pray that, when we speak to our brethren who do not yet know you, it is your words that are upon our lips. Guide us to be charitable in our dialog and just in our teachings, but also firm. Protect us from watered-down teachings and lead us truly through the Holy Spirit. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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