"God has overlooked the times of ignorance,
but now he demands
that all people everywhere repent
because he has established
a day on which he will 'judge the world with justice'
through a man he has appointed,
and he has provided confirmation for all
by raising him from the dead."
A man sitting in the front spoke up.
"I dunno, dawg, it was kinda pitchy for me."
A woman seated next to him moved goofily and sang shakily, "Don't know much 'bout philosophy."
A woman next to her said something that everyone instantly forgot.
A sour-looking man on the other side of the women then spoke to Paul brusquely.
"It was ghastly."
A man with a bright smile then walked to Paul and said, "We should like to hear you on this some other time."
St. Paul's preaching to the pagan intellectuals at the Areopagus of Athens, as recounted in today's first reading (Acts 17:15,22-18:1), is sometimes interpreted as less than a complete success, and yet it bore fruit: one of those converted that day, Dionysius, went on to become the bishop of this prestigious city.
It was a daunting task, standing up to an entrenched intelligentsia on their own hallowed ground, but Paul had the courage, the insight, and the grace to do it.
It encourages us not to be afraid to stand up for the faith against the intelligentsia and de facto pagans of our own day (taking care to seek the insight and the grace needed for such opportunities).
An important point to remember is what underlies St. Paul's words to the Athenians: that even the most highly educated and intellectually gifted people may be, on some deep level, essentially ignorant of the true content of faith.
We need to be careful, to develop all the insight we can, to seek the grace from God we need, and to be unafraid in speaking the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(updated from an earlier post)