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Wed, 5/20/20: To preach Christ crucified

Updated: May 25, 2020

Today's readings can be found: [Here].

The Parthenon in Athens is quite the sight. That encounter with antiquity can summon from within the visitor many emotions and thoughts. I've visited there before. But rather than the Parthenon itself, a hill overlooking it held more meaning to me, due to a particular someone who dignified it with his presence and preaching. It was a hill from which Saint Paul himself preached: the Areopagus.

That preaching happens in a scene from our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles today (Acts 17:15, 22-18:1), in which we hear Saint Paul reach out to the Athenians. Now, despite having thirteen letters known to be from Saint Paul in our Canon of Sacred Scripture, one letter that we’ll never read is a letter of Saint Paul to the Athenians. Why?

It’s because there was no great Christian community in Athens that had been founded by Saint Paul. There’s an interesting footnote to this passage from Corinthians in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: “Paul’s failure in Athens convinced him that lofty words and worldly wisdom were less effective than Jesus Christ crucified”.

Saint Paul had been inspired to preach in Athens, and so he sought to reveal the mystery of God to them with beautiful rhetoric and enlightened words. But when he began to speak to them about the resurrection of the dead, he was mocked, and finally left Athens with only a few followers.

In Corinth, his tone is much different. He says nothing more of signs or wisdom. Christ must be preached, Christ crucified. And so, Paul leads with that: "When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

That will be his approach to preaching from here on out: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:22-25).

In our day, our society is certainly not at a loss for words. Whether in print, television, or on the internet, there is an abundance of words that fill the different mediums. But in the end, there is only oneWord who matters. He is the one who was crucified but lives. He is Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, the Word made flesh. Like Saint Paul after Athens, may we always be ready to lead with this Word. May God bless you.


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