Paul’s escort took him as far as Athens, and went back with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as they could.
So Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech:
‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.
‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him, since he can never be in need of anything; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territory should be. And he did this so that all nations might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:
“We are all his children.”
‘Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.
‘God overlooked that sort of thing when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’
At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, ‘We would like to hear you talk about this again.’ After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris, and others besides.
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
‘I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.’
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
I was recently invited to join a couple of folks on a retreat in a town about 80km from Sydney. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was both excited and anxious. Excited because I knew I needed the time of silence, but anxious because I was worried that I would not get the full ‘bang for the buck’ from this retreat. My mind has been so busy and active of late, filled with worries and plans of how to circumvent the obstacles I am facing. The questions that clouded my mind were — What if I don’t hear you? What if I can’t reflect? What is there is nothing to write in my journal?
Just like the Athenians in today’s first reading, I had built my own objects of worship –- in the form of plans and strategies on how I should move forward in my future. I felt that I had to make the effort and do all the work before God would show me the way ahead. ‘God helps those who helps themselves’ was what I subscribed to, unconsciously. But I am reminded of a homily given some years back that the line isn’t even in the bible! Nonetheless, even as I entered into the retreat, I was filled with the ‘what if’ questions. Then one afternoon, feeling dejected and frustrated with myself, I went into a small chapel and simply prayed. I reflected on Psalm 139. I had reflected on this Psalm before but that day, it brought new meaning and I broke down into uncontrollable loud sobs. What the Lord told me in that little chapel was ‘Why child are you trying so hard? Why are you trying to formulate all these plans? Why are you so controlling? Do you not think I already know?’
‘The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.’
That afternoon in that little chapel, I was given permission by God to stop overanalysing, stop overthinking; that I didn’t need to work so hard to earn His love. I finally felt free to simply take the vacation with Him and allow Him to speak to me in the silence of my heart and mind.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit who will guide us to all truth. When we reject his guidance, we abuse our freedom. However, when we allow ourselves to be guided by him, we are truly free. I was finally free to take walks with Him, sing to Him and draw with Him. And in those moments, He led me to a new vision of what the future could be. No, I still don’t have all the answers, but He put a fresh new exciting desire in my heart. One step at a time.
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’ For now, I don’t have to know the destination of his greater plan. But I will simply just walk with Him on this journey.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, help us to surrender all to you. In your goodness and love, lead us. You have many things to say to us. But you know that in our human-ness, we may not comprehend everything now. So Lord, give us enough light for the step we are on. Give us the faith to follow you.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your love. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in guiding us to the truth. In your time, not ours.