Day 338: Death Defeated

Acts 17:1-15 Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, and the Christians there were the recipients of Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians in the New Testament. The Jews who rejected Paul’s preaching in Thessalonica traveled to Beroea to make trouble for him there as well. The charges were similar to those against Christ, claiming that Paul and Silas were insurrectionists who supported a Messiah who would establish an earthly kingdom. The Jews of Beroea accepted Christ after examining the Old Testament Scriptures and determining that Christ had indeed fulfilled the prophecies.

Taken security: Jason paid security for himself and the others; which he would l0ose if Paul and Silas caused more disturbances. (CCC 594)

Ch 17:16-34 Ancient Greeks worshiped many gods, and so they had a different god for just about every need. The altar Agnostos Theos (“to an unknown god”) was erected in case there was a god of whom they were not aware. Paul used this monument to deliver a clever speech that planted the seed of faith among the pagans of Athens. He explained to them that the god they did not know was the one true God, whose son died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Knowledge and belief in the one true God of love rescues humanity from the tendency toward self-absorption that fosters the bondage of sin and unhealthy worldly attachments. (CCC 200, 2083, 2097, 2114)

Ch 17:18 Epicureanism was a philosophy that arose in the third century BC, which encouraged the enjoyment of simple pleasures, the avoidance of pain through right knowledge, and temperance, almost to the point of asceticism. By the time of Christ, it had already devolved nearly into hedonism. Epicureans were agnostics and believed that the gods, if they even existed, were aloof to human concerns. Stoic philosophers were pantheists who believed that virtue meant aligning one’s will to that of nature and accepting with serenity whatever fate came one’s way. Countless philosophies and theologies have developed over the centuries among people trying to solve the basic questions of existence such as the presence of divinity, the meaning of human life, and human relationships. Because of concupiscence, the human mind is often hindered in this search by disordered appetites and sensory distractions. (CCC 36-40)

Ch 17:19 Areopagus: Literally, “the hill of Ares,” the Greek god of war. The hill was commonly used for oration, worship, and meetings of the city’s elders. 

Ch 17:24-31 Paul touched on themes that had been emphasized in past apostolic sermons.

Does not live in shrines made by man: This assertion resonated with Stephen’s final sermon before his death (cf. Acts 7:48-50).

The times of ignorance God overlooked: This exhortation to the people that God had tolerated their pagan ways throughout history but now demanded repentance and belief in the one true God. Paul and Barnabas had delivered a similar message to the pagas and Lystra (cf. Acts 14:14-17). (CCC 29, 2112)

Ch 17:26 Every nation of men: All of humanity is descended from Adam and Eve, in which the entire human race is united.

They should seek God: Although God made himself known more explicitly to Israel, persons of every nation have natural knowledge of God inscribed on their hearts and are naturally inclined to seek him. (CCC 28, 57, 287, 359-360)

Ch 17:28 In him we live and move and have our being: Paul here used a line that has been attributed to three different Greek poets-Epimenides, Aratus (Phaenomena, 5), and Cleanthes. Whatever the origin, Paul was appropriating the quote to describe the one God, who created human beings and maintains the world in orderly fashion. (CCC 32, 300, 2566)

Ch 17:30-33 The resurrection of the body was a very strange idea to the Greeks because they believed only in an immortal soul. The body was seen only as a material shell that confined the spirit during its lifetime on earth. 

The man he has appointed: Christ will return to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. (CCC 679, 996)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 The central truth of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. His Resurrection is a historical fact witnessed by a vast number of people, including the Apostles, who saw the risen Lord after his Resurrection. Paul counted himself among the Apostles, although he was the last and “least” of the Apostles to have seen Christ. Most scholars believe Paul wrote this letter around AD 57-before the canonical Gospels were composed-so his description of the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ is the earliest recorded in Scripture and must derive from the oral tradition of the Church. Out of the oral tradition came an expression of the most important beliefs of Christianity, which eventually became the various creeds that we know today. (CCC 186, 639, 642, 652-659, 752, 857, 2008)

Ch 15:3 Paul handed on the oral tradition just as he had received it. 

For our sins: The sole purpose of the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ was our redemption.

On the third day: The timing of the Resurrection was important in order to fulfill a prophecy that the Messiah would not suffer corruption of the flesh (cf. Ps 16:9-10); at the time of Christ it was believed that the decay of the body began on the fourth day after death. 

In accordance with the scriptures: The Resurrection of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah as well as the predictions Christ made of himself during his public ministry. This fact is attested to in the Nicene Creed: Christ “rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (CCC 519, 601, 619, 624, 627)

Ch 15:5 He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve: Peter (Cephas) was singled out, both by Paul and by Christ in his post-Resurrection appearance, because he was appointed head of the Church. Also, part of Peter’s role was to strengthen the faith of the other Apostles, so his witness would have been of great inspiration and comfort to them. (CCC 552, 641)

Ch 15:12-19 There seems to have been some skepticism in the Corinthian Church regarding the resurrection of the dead. The Greeks believed that death released the soul from the body, and the Sadducees denied the resurrection altogether. Regardless of the source, Paul related that Christ’s Resurrection and his appearances in his glorified Body give evidence that our bodies too will be raised on the last day. (CCC 651, 666, 991, 996)

Ch 15:20-34 In rising from the dead, Christ revealed his victory over sin and death originally introduced into the world through the sin of Adam. For this reason, Christ is called the New Adam, for he destroyed sin and death and made possible the redemption of humanity. The effects of the Redemption are continuously imparted to humanity until the end of time. (CCC 411, 655)

Ch 15:20 Because he truly died, Christ was for a time in the abode of the dead, where the souls of those who had died before him awaited redemption. There he preached the Good News of salvation and led the souls of the just to Heaven, which became accessible through his Death and Resurrection. This is the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed when it says, “He descended into hell.” (CCC 632, 991)

Ch 15:24-28 By his Death and Resurrection, Christ reclaimed the kingship of peace, joy, truth, and love for everyone who accepts the race of the Redemption. This triumph will be completed at the end of the world when, as we affirm in the Nicene Creed, Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Every sin and evil will be eradicated, including death. At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will reach its perfection. (CCC 130, 294, 1050-1060, 1322-1326, 2550)

Ch 15:33 Paul is quoting from a play called Thais written by the Greek dramatist Menander.

Ch 15:35-38 The resurrected body will not be an earthly body but a glorified one; it will not return to the same life it enjoyed on earth. At the resurrection our bodies will be transformed and will be reunited with our souls. The descriptions in Scripture of the Body of the risen Christ give us an idea as to the state of our own glorified bodies, which will exist without boundaries of time or space. The funeral liturgy of the Church commits the dead into the hands of God in the sure hope that they will rise again in glory. If we have lived faithfully in Christ, our efforts and travails in this life will be amply rewarded in the Kingdom of God. (CCC 504, 680, 999-1000, 1683, 2804)

Ch 15:45-47 Adam possessed the gift of life, given to him by the Creator; Christ, the New Adam, rose to new life and gives us all a share in his life. (CCC 364, 411, 1015-1017)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Thessalonica: Turning the World Upside Down 

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much. Thank you for your Word and thank you for making us into your children. Lord God, you are our Dad. And in Jesus Christ, your Son, our Brother, you have conquered death. And so we are able to say, with St. Paul, we are able to say with all Christians who have gone before us, ‘Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’ Lord God, we do mourn, but we do not mourn like the rest. Every one of us is touched by suffering. Every one of our lives is touched by grief. Every part of our lives, in some way, is touched by loss. Yes, Lord, we cry. But we do not weep, we do not cry, we do not grieve like the rest. We do not weep in vain because we have not believed in vain. You have conquered death. And that we rise, we know this to be true. You have revealed it. You have declared it. You have proven it. You have demonstrated it. You have given it to us. And so, Lord God, we accept this. We accept the Resurrection of the Dead. We accept the new life that you have offered to us through our Baptism, through the grace that comes to us now by the Holy Spirit. And we say yes. Help us to grieve well. Help us to weep well. Help us to experience loss well. Be with us in our grief, Lord God. And be with us at the hour of our death. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”