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. (Acts 17:22-23)
I really love the first reading of today’s Mass. It is such a glimpse into human nature.
Paul was on a mission. His mission was to introduce as many people as possible to Jesus and to aid them in worshiping the one, true God. This was extremely difficult for him because the Gentiles had a habit of worshiping many gods. Their polytheism was a real struggle to address. Paul, however, found a way in.
He mentioned that they, like all people, appeared to want to “cover the bases”, even in their worship. After all, what if all the gods they worshiped were not as powerful as some god out there whom they had yet to know?
Ah. There’s a way around that. Let’s erect an altar “To an Unknown God” so that, should that god look down on us, that god will see that we have even left room for him!
Paul used that opportunity to talk, not about a god, but about the God. The God who was above all. The God who was not a construct of all the pagan gods; but, who was the creator, the source of all life, and the end-point for all creation.
Of course, Paul’s discourse did not land completely on willing ears. Some people rejected his message, especially when he began to speak about the resurrection of the dead. However, many others were persuaded by his message and were willing, at least, to hear more. Some of those would eventually become converts. Paul would entrust the kernel of faith to them and then move on to another community that needed to hear the Good News.
FAITH ACTION: Do we know people who, in effect, worship many gods? Are there people in our lives who need to be introduced to a more solid faith in the one, true God? In prayer today, ask God to give you the wisdom you need in order to speak with those people.