Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter - 2012

St. Paul was not afraid to face those who might not yet believe his message.  He addresses a large crowd in the very center of Greek culture, the Areopagus of Athens.  Perhaps we might liken the location to East Side of the United States Capitol.  The following words are the first part of today's first reading.

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:
"You Athenians, I see that in every respect
you are very religious.
For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines,
I even discovered an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God.'
What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and all that is in it,
the Lord of heaven and earth,
does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands,
nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything.
Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.
He made from one the whole human race
to dwell on the entire surface of the earth,
and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,
so that people might seek God,
even perhaps grope for him and find him,
though indeed he is not far from any one of us.
For 'In him we live and move and have our being,'
as even some of your poets have said,
'For we too are his offspring.'

We see here the mind of the great apostle.  He knew how to be most effective -- without a degree or course in public speaking.  Up front he says to the people that he comes as a preacher to further instruct them about the Christian God.  They already know something about this God they have heard about.  Furthermore, he credits them with "your are very religious."  But he wishes them to realize that the Christian God is closer to them than they imagine.  How does he teach them?  His message is as valid today as it was when Paul spoke to the Greeks.  He walks them through a contemplation of their experience of what it means to be, to exist.  The apostle walks them through his belief that if a person would simply reason about his or her experience of human existence, there would be the realization that every human being is dependent for his or her existence on something or someone outside of or other than one's self. Paul calls his hearers and us to regularly recognize that our existence is given to us.  It is a gift.  Paul continues on by assuring them that were there is a gift, there must be a donor, a giver.  Thinking about our existence today we have to realize that all that has been given to us -- the marvels of our modern world -- may indeed have been made by human minds.  However, we have to know whence the human mind achieves all that it accomplishes.  We cannot overlook that in our own times technological achievements may have come from continual investigation.  However, all of this universe from the very dirt we walk on to the most challenging intricacies of science and nature that can build a computer or lauch space ships to apartments that float deep in outer space are gifts to us from a unique Giver who is a person we call our God.  Of course to make the leap from accepting all of these wonders as the works of humankind to another level, to someone beyond levels of reasoning requires another step.  This is the reason we pray:  that through our prayer we may come to an awareness of our blessedness, our reception of all these gifts from a God of abundance. Perhaps this is the message that we Christians fail to rely on when we endeavor to bring others to an awareness of God's greatness and his goodness to us.  Paul is practicing what the Greeks knew well:  work to a solution through the simple practice of reasoning.  However, he says let your heart and mind proceed a little further from reason to prayer.