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Bible Study Guide for Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 14, 2023

[Acts 17:22-31,  1 Peter 3:13-22,  John 14:15-21,  Psalm 66:7-18]

“Why in the world are you a Christian? Are you some kind of reactionary conservative? Hasn’t science eliminated the need for God? Don’t you know about all the awful things the Church has done and continues to do?” In the middle of the twentieth century, American society broadly assumed a cultural Christianity. My parents talk about growing up in the 1950s when nothing was scheduled on Sundays and the only stores open on Sundays would be an occasional drug store to accommodate emergencies. The world has changed and that seems almost unimaginable now. Being part of a church community makes us unusual.

Peter might have found the 1950s to be confusing as well. Today’s Epistle reading expects a hostile world, as Peter tells his audience to “always be ready to make your
defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” I can’t relate to that language either. Looking at some other translations helps, though. The Common English Bible translates this verse as “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.” The New American Bible, often used by Roman Catholics, says “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” The New International Version says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Peter here is anticipating persecution and preparing his audience for severe attacks. There are definitely people today for whom this is a very concrete possibility. Most of us, in our part of the world, will never face persecution. However, we will have times when we need to answer questions. Sometimes people might be actively hostile to Christianity, for a variety of good or bad reasons. Sometimes people are just confused or curious. Either way, sometimes questions come up. It can be important to be prepared
ahead of time for these questions, not at all to be dishonest but in order to answer these questions honestly and well rather than ending up shocked and stumbling over our words.  And sometimes people are angry or hurting and we are better able to answer “with gentleness and reverence” rather than hostility if we put thought into preparing ahead of time.

In today’s reading from Acts, Paul gives us an example of giving an answer “with gentleness and reverence.” Paul is speaking on the Areopagus (also translated as Mars Hill). This may have been a cordial philosophical debate or may have been a judicial trial as the Areopagus council heard capital cases. Paul may have been arguing for his life. Either way, he is treating his audience with respect and looking to find common ground, using elements of their own culture to make connections with the Gospel. And in this case, it worked! According to ancient traditions, St. Dionysus the Areopagite was one of the judges at the Areopagus court and was converted by Paul’s speech here. He became the first bishop of Athens and is venerated as a saint in both Catholic and Orthodox churches.

– Kristen Filipic


Can you think of a time when someone asked why you are a Christian? How did that come up? How did you respond?

How do we respond with gentleness and reverence when people are angry or hurting?

Paul saw that the Athenians worshipped “an unknown god” and used that to explain about Jesus. What are some parts of modern American secular culture that might connect with the Gospel?


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