May 17, 2023
by David Crawford
Creighton University - Retired  
click here for photo and information about the writer

 Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 293 

Acts 17:15, 22—18:1
Psalm 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
John 16:12-15

Celebrating Easter Home

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Easter Joy in Everyday Life

The Apostle Paul is rightly considered one of the heroes of the early church.  He often is described, in numerous homilies, sermons and writings, as “bold,” and I recall many times hearing young Christians encouraged to “be bold, like Paul.”  In the stories of Paul found in Acts, it becomes clear that Paul’s boldness was inextricably linked to his faithful obedience to the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit of Truth promised by Jesus in the Gospel reading for today.  The Alleluia verse (John 14:16) promises that the Spirit will “always” be with us; and not just near us, but (according to John 14:17) abiding in us.

In our first reading, we find Paul in Athens, speaking at the Areopagus.  The name “Areopagus” applies both to a physical location (a hill) and also to an aristocratic council that at various times in history served as a governing council or a judicial council for Athens.  Whether Paul is speaking informally at the site or formally to the group, he is there by invitation as a result of his public debates in the marketplace with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:16-20).  Paul’s audience that day included philosophers and, given that one of the individuals (Dionysius) who converted to Christianity after hearing Paul was “a member of the Court of the Areopagus,” some local authorities.  In other words, intellectuals who would argue with him, and officials who could punish him.

Take a step back with me for a moment, and consider going into a meeting, making a phone call, or giving a talk when you do not know how your words will be received.  As a worrier, these situations give me a good deal of anxiety.  Now imagine Paul’s situation.  Based on his previous experiences – in Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica and elsewhere – Paul had good reason to expect that some people would be receptive to his words and would become followers of Christ, but he also could expect some people to reject what he had to say.  Indeed, by the time Paul arrived in Athens, he had been mocked, persecuted, beaten and imprisoned.  Yet here he is in Athens, willingly risking another attack while proclaiming the risen Christ.  Why? 

I think the answer can be found by looking earlier in Acts at the accounts of Paul’s travels.  Throughout his journey, missionary Paul is guided by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit led him to Macedonia, prevented him from going to Bythinia, and kept him from preaching the Word as he traveled through parts of Asia.  From this we know that Paul was obedient to the Holy Spirit abiding in him, but that only answers part of the question.  Another part of the answer is that Paul was faithful, knowing that the Holy Spirit would be with him no matter the circumstances, so Paul focused on what the Spirit called him to do instead of worrying about what might happen.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of being with a Jesuit friend who was preparing for an overseas trip to work with refugees.  As we sat together, different people came up to wish him safe travel.  I was struck by the fact that almost all, in one way or another, explicitly questioned the wisdom of going to such a risky, unsafe place.  His responses never addressed that point specifically, but reading between the lines I realized that he was saying, in essence: “I am going to focus on what I am called to do and trust that the Spirit is leading me where I need to be.”  We still have bold missionaries among us.

For little anxious-prone me, I plan to start my coming days with the prayer: Holy Spirit, as you repeatedly tell me, there is no need to be afraid.  I am listening for your voice, and I trust you to lead me.  I have decided to heed the call to “be bold, like Paul” and Let Your Faith Be Stronger Than Your Fear.*
* written by Tom Trenney, Minister of Music at First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, Ne; performed here by Ariel Merivil and the First-Plymouth Choir.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook