Daily Reflection
May 11th, 2002
Bob Whipple, Jr.
English Department
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Acts 18:23-28
Psalm 47:2-3, 8-9, 10
John 16:23-28

Today’s readings talk about proclamation.  Now, we’ve all heard plenty of proclamations in our lives—proclamations from our friends, politicians, bosses, parents, and so on.  “You can’t be serious about going out with him/her!”  “You will not leave this house until your room is clean.”  “The economy is getting better.”  “The economy will get worse before it gets better.”  “You need to work smarter, not harder.”  We hear such declarative assertions so often that, just as often, we are inclined to take them, with a grain of salt.  As a writing teacher of 20 years’ experience, I tell my students that assertions by themselves without support will not cause anyone to believe them.  The mere fact that something is uttered is hardly compelling enough to make most modern humans a) do it, or b) believe it.

But look at the proclamations we have for today:  proclamations of good news, gladness, and promises of salvation.  It’s always nice to hear good news.  Moreover, these proclamations have support.  Apollos brings the good news (and shows that eloquence needs instruction and intellect and knowledge to be effective).  The Psalmist shows another mode of proclamation; he is like the town crier, strolling the streets, shouting the Good News to all and sundry.  His enthusiasm is infections and delightful.  And in John, Christ speaks in direct, declarative, absolutely unambiguous sentences.  “Ask, and you shall receive;” “ I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father."  Pretty clear.

These are three different kinds of proclamations.  One is through the eloquence of a learned man; the other is the emotional enthusiasm of joy; he last is the logical exposition of fact.  We have here the classic logos, pathos, and ethos—logic, passion, and character—of classical Greek and Roman rhetoric, with which the authors of Scripture would surely have been familiar.  But it’s less important to categorize than to point out that the Good News can come in lots of different ways—we don’t have to have it only as a sermon, or only as a bolt from heaven (now that’s pathos!), or only as a “still, small voice.”  It can come as it comes.  And these are not bare unsupported assertions, either; they are supported by acts of the Apostles, the life of Christ, and by His example on the cross.  

Thus we see the validity St. Augustine’s assertion that Christians should use all the powers of rhetoric to bring about the Kingdom of God.  Good News is welcome in whatever form it comes.

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