Sunday Vigil

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Memorial of Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi, priest of the Church of Palermo, who was killed by mafia in 1993.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 17,22-34

So Paul stood before the whole council of the Areopagus and made this speech: 'Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because, as I strolled round looking at your sacred monuments, I noticed among other things an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. In fact, the unknown God you revere is the one I proclaim to you. 'Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he in need of anything, that he should be served by human hands; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything -- including life and breath -- to everyone. From one single principle he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed the times and limits of their habitation. And he did this so that they might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him; and indeed he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said: We are all his children. 'Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man. 'But now, overlooking the times of ignorance, God is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged in uprightness by a man he has appointed. And God has publicly proved this by raising him from the dead.' At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, 'We would like to hear you talk about this another time.' After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Aeropagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Paul starts his speech in the important square of the Areopagus in Athens by speaking about a pagan altar devoted to the Unknown God, which he noticed while walking through the city. The apostle affirms that he came to announce the name of that God, who was therefore no longer unknown. The learned Athenians paid close attention to Paul, who was succeeding in maintaining the interest of his demanding listeners. Referring to their culture, Paul was seeking to put them in dialogue with the Gospel. We could say that the apostle had succeeded in engaging with the sensitivity of his listeners, which was obviously important, but the heart of the Gospel—that is, Jesus’ victory over evil and death, required a leap in comparison to the logic argument of the “unknown god.” Paul had to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and this implied a discontinuity between the accepted cultural horizon and the horizon of faith, between the Gospel and reason. When the issue is welcoming the scandal of the cross and the God of Jesus, the encounter moves on to a plane different from that of the simple rational logic. We do not know if the words of Paul to the Corinthians followed this defeat, “I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. … My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:1-4). The heart of the Christian proclamation, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, is an extraordinary and unexpected gift that the Lord gave to humanity and that is “beyond” the expectation of reason, though it is not against it. Perhaps the apostle hoped that those wise people, who believed that the soul was immortal, would also welcome the mystery of the resurrection of the flesh. Paul brought the Athenians to the threshold, but right at that point, they interrupted him, “We will hear you again talk about this.” Paul was greatly disappointed, but he remembered Jesus’ words, “I bless you Father, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to the little children” (Mt 11:25-27).