Let’s pause and admire the serene confidence with which St. Paul stood and spoke in the Athenian Areopagus.
Fearless, first of all, because he knew that his speech appealed to something that dwells in the heart of every human being: the desire for God.
As we read at the beginning of the Catechism…
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself…This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. Man cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator. (CCC 27)
St. Paul was fearless also because he preached the answer to the question of man. Man’s desire for God is a question, a question that words cannot adequately express. God Almighty, Who has a Word more sublime than our human languages, has answered. The answer is Jesus.
We, too, can stand and bear witness, with the same serene confidence that St. Paul had. If the Athenians had chosen to stone St. Paul, he was ready. If they had chosen to embrace him and demand more attention, he was ready. If they chose to ignore him, he was ready.
St. Paul stood and spoke because he loved. He loved the unseen God. He loved the Word of God, Jesus Christ. And he loved the Athenians, because he loved everybody. We can love all the Roanokers, and everybody else we know–and stand and bear witness fearlessly, too.