"I am not ashamed of the Gospel"
The other day, I listened to an interview conducted in the year 2000 with author and atheist A.N. Wilson on the theme "The Age of Doubt." In it, Wilson asserted arrogantly "how contemptible and foolish the early Christians were…" I expected at least a semblance of a balanced discussion. Not this.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. We live in world that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religion. Most of the media and entertainment celebrities – our modern day philosophes – ridicule religion; Catholicism leads their mockery. Recently on late night television, a comedian sang in mock tone a Catholic hymn about the bread becoming the Body of Christ, to the uproarious laughter of the audience.
Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to the Jewish and Gentile Christian community of Rome. He addressed the tensions between them regarding the role of Law with reference to sin and the meaning of salvation for Gentiles. But Paul also was writing to a community living in a Roman culture seeped in pagan gods, civic religion and Christian hostility.
To Christians struggling in that world – and we in our world today – Paul boldly proclaims: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel…" In other words, he calls us to speak the words and live lives that communicate what God has done for the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and to show how God’s saving work is working in our lives right now.
It’s not easy. It’s not "cool." Nevertheless, in our hostile culture, we are admonished to witness to the Good News.
How important is our witness? Consider this. A.N. Wilson, the fiery foe of Christianity, became a Christian two years ago. He was influenced slowly by the lives of St. Thomas More, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, and many others. Today, Wilson himself is the target of ridicule and attack. But now he too proclaims: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel."
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.