May 4, 2016
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.
In the verse from today's readings above, replace the word "religious" with the word "spiritual." How relevant is this quote from in our lives, especially in New York? There is an intense culture of worship all around us, thought this phenomenon is rarely named as such: A worship of self, a worship of beauty, a worship of power, a worship of comfort, of love and passion, of grief and morbid curiosity. In fact, it's often to get so incredibly frustrated with all of the false idols the people all around us revere.
Now, God in the 10 Commandments took little time to obliterate the notion that the worship of false gods as something to be tolerated. We must not allow ourselves any leeway in this regard; God is God, and we are not, as the adage goes. But in today's reading, Paul moves past condemnation and reaches to the heart of the Athenians' worship: that everything true, good, and beautiful, at its core, is a manifestation of God.
That which is Good can be twisted in infinite ways by our fallen humanity or more sinister actors, who rely on subtlety to obscure our view of reality, but Satan cannot create, he can only distort. The raw material of the world was created by the Creator, the source of all goodness, and no one else. (Refer to Genesis 1 if you'd like a refresher)
Paul goes on:
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.
I call these things to mind not to excuse idol worship or the sort of pseudo-pantheistic and humanistic "spiritual" worldview that is popular among young people today ("I'm spiritual, but not religious" might as well be the official religion of Coachella), but to remind us that in every heart lies the fragments of a desire for God, which can be resurrected through love, humility, companionship, and faithfulness. Every human heart yearns for communion with the divine! Do we truly believe this?
Take heart, knowing that somewhere, imprinted on the human person, is a longing for the infinite. Witness to God's work in your life, how he has added meaning to the beauty you see. Have faith that the Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting; we only have to point to the Source. What they unknowingly worship, by God's mercy and grace to us, we can proclaim.
Praised be Jesus Christ, who is the human face of eternal love.