Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
We continue our readings from the Acts of the Apostles. We are now in the 17th chapter. St. Paul had proceeded further into Europe. He arrives in Athens, the leading city in the country of Greece.
We can picture St. Paul walking through the streets of this famous city, with its beautiful buildings, many magnificent temples, statues all over the place. It was a bustling city, well-known for its schools and academies. Plato and Aristotle had walked the same streets and taught in the schools.
St. Paul remarked that he “looked carefully” at the shrines. At one point, he discovered an altar inscribed “To an unknown god.” What a golden opportunity. He proceeds to tell those who had gathered around him the good news (the “Gospel”) about this unknown god. It is the God who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
This is the God that Paul wants everybody to know about. This is the God who will answer the questions about life asked by the philosophers. This is the God who will bring salvation to people longing for something better than images made of gold, silver and stone.
Paul delivers quite a talk. He even quotes from one of the Greek poets. He does all of this to make his case that the real (not the “unknown”) God is the One who sent Jesus. Jesus reveals this God as One of mercy and justice.
Paul concludes his discourse by saying that God has endorsed this Jesus by raising him from the dead. With that affirmation, Paul lost most of his audience. We can imagine that St. Paul must have felt somewhat deflated by his failure.
However, a number of that audience did accept the message and became Christians. They accepted that it is God who gives to all people life and breath and everything else. It is by the Spirit of God that we have within us the life-giving message of Jesus, the pledge of what we are to become by dying and rising with him.
Reflection by Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB