After Paul’s escorts had taken him to Athens, they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. 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.’
Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”
When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.” And so Paul left them. But some did join him, and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
After this he left Athens and went to Corinth.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
If you are like me, you probably feel uncomfortable at times when talking directly about your relationship with God. I am concerned about sounding too “preachy” or “pious.” And yet, I know we are all called to share the good news and love with which God has blessed us so abundantly.
Today, Paul gives us a great example of how to do this; he is a clever preacher. He starts with the real lived experience of the Athenians by referencing their altar to an unknown God and the wisdom of their poets. He turns the unknown God into the one God of all creation and the poets’ wisdom into our deepest desire to be with God.
Ignatius himself was a believer in this approach. In a letter giving advice to Jesuits being missioned to preach the good news in Ireland, he says, “Whenever we wish to win someone over and engage him in the greater service of God our Lord, we should… enter through his door and come out God’s door.”
I am going to try to do this more often and more consciously.
—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.
Lord, grant that I may see thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
follow thee more nearly.
—Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius #104
Please share the Good Word with your friends!