Our first reading today is taken from the 1st missionary trip of St. Barnabas and St. Paul. In Acts 13 and 14, the intrepid disciples go from Asia Minor to Cyprus, back to the mainland at Antioch, and other nearby cities. They met success, resistance, and out-and-out rejection as they proclaimed the Good News of Jesus as Lord and Savior. Their basic strategy when speaking to the Jewish community seems to be to connect the whole of salvation history as coming to fulfillment in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But what about when speaking to the Gentile community?
Their message seems to be that there was always the role of Israel as a light to the nations – they just did not do a very good job of it. But Paul’s message is that even without the witness of Israel, they should have known at least in a nascent kind of way:
“For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:19-22)
That give some content for Paul’s mindset when in today’s reading he says: “In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.” (Acts 14:6-7) Or said, more succinctly, the heavens are telling the Glory of God.
But that was in past generations. It is no longer acceptable to “go their own way.” The message of Jesus as Lord and Savior has been proclaimed. Believe or don’t believe. Be hot or be cold, but don’t be lukewarm. Either as messenger or the one receiving the message.
It is probably time for each of us to take our faith “temperature” and become witness to the world, a light to the nations.
Image credit: Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens, by Raphael, 1515 – Public Domain