Grace to you, and Happy Easter!
The Greeks of ancient times were remarkable in their search for knowledge. Centuries before the modern mind could pride itself in liberal thought and beliefs; it was already part of their culture. Athens was the hub of that culture. Areopagus was the stage upon which the best of innovative human ideas rallied in Athens.
The Athenians cherished freedom of expression. In particular, freedom of speech. It was granted to all, babblers or the articulate. No one was silenced in the public forum, not even one with news as strange to them as the resurrection. Anyone who thought he had something to say, especially what has not been heard before, had the full attention of the curious Greeks.
Saint Paul found himself in Athens on the hill, Areopagus, where Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other great Greek philosophers had sold their ideas to the people. He was brought to the stage by others who heard him speak about "some deity." "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities," some of them said (See. Acts 17:18).
From Paul, we learn how to engage a people's culture and how not to do so as regards evangelization. Paul began by acknowledging the religious sentiments of the native people. "I see you are very religious." Beginning with what is good in a people’s culture or worldview is always an excellent strategy to adopt if an evangelizer wants to engage other cultures, traditions and faith-claims.
For the best of Greek minds, belief in the supernatural was taken for granted. Their quest for more meaning in religion was not as to whether God exists but what type of God. Since they weren't sure, their accommodating spirit made space for even an "unknown god."
They gave room to accommodate their limitations. They didn't want to miss anything. Observe that it was all about them searching for God. Paul comes with totally different news, and evangelizers should pay attention to it. One of the radical things about Christianity is that it is not humanity's search for God. It is about God's search for us. From the call of Abraham through the Prophets and the fullest of revelation in Christ, it is about God drawing us to Godself.
This news was different to the Athenians. More so was the news about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The latter, they could not grasp at all. Hence, they invited Paul to come next time, if he wished, so they would hear him again (Acts 17:32).
Further lessons for Christian evangelization. Remaining at the level of what is common to the people (an understanding of God that doesn't draw us to the deeper reality of God's revelation of himself to us) isn't the wisest tactic. It's spiritually crippling. To walk and run, grow into spiritual maturity, we need to learn that faith is the belief in what God did and is doing for us, not what we are doing for God. It's our being part of God's plan even if it is mind-blowing, as the Resurrection was to the Athenians. I will show you, starting tomorrow, who it is that makes the faith come alive. To preempt, it's the Holy Spirit.
Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, give me the grace to appreciate your love for me for which I can have a relationship with you. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Easter Wednesday Weekday 6: Acts 17:15, 22-18:1; John 16:12-15]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.