THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUTH—GOD DWELLING AMONG US
The apostles should not be sad because Jesus leaves them. Their faith will become deeper and more spiritual when Jesus is no longer physically present. The Holy Spirit of truth will continue with them the mission of Jesus. This Spirit of truth will give them no new message, but he will guide the apostles and the Church to deepen their understanding of the life and the message of Jesus and to confront these constantly with the events and problems of the times. And thus, lead the Church forward.
St. Paul in Athens gives us an example of an apostle and missionary who tries to take the pagan religion of the Athenians as a starting point and to spiritualise it by stripping it from materialism and formalism.
1 Reading: ACTS 17:15, 22—18:1
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.
Responsorial Psalm 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. or: R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels;
praise him, all you his hosts. R.
Let the kings of the earth and all peoples,
the princes and all the judges of the earth,
Young men too, and maidens,
old men and boys. R.
Praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
His majesty is above earth and heaven. R.
He has lifted up the horn of his people;
Be this his praise from all his faithful ones,
from the children of Israel, the people close to him.
Alleluia John 14:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will ask the Father
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you always.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
If we surmise correctly, Paul put a good deal of thought into his first presentation of the faith in the Areopagus at Athens. It differs considerably from the customary Pauline apologetic, and we can only regret that it did not meet with a great measure of success, as the author of Acts of the Apostles admits. While visiting the shrines to the various Greek deities, Paul comes upon one dedicated to a God Unknown. He seizes the moment and makes an impassioned plea for the God of Israel and the Christ. He assures his hearers that this is the true God, the one in whom “we live and move and have our being.”
The turning point in Paul’s apologetic presentation occurs when he mentions Christ’s resurrection from the dead. This was an idea that was repulsive to a sophisticated Greek audience. He is met by sneers and an unwillingness to hear more at that time. Only a few converts were made.
Worthy of note is the fact that Paul’s presentation centered almost wholly on the God of the Old Testament. There is only a single reference to Christ, not as Son of God or Messiah but simply as the man raised from the dead and appointed judge of the world. Paul’s words were carefully selected to appeal to the Hellenists, with none of the usual apologetic surrounding Christ’s life and mission.
The Gospel today reminds us that the Spirit was to bring enlightenment after Christ’s departure. There are many ways in which the Spirit has enlightened the church since the dawn of Christianity. The mystery of the incarnation and redemption has unfolded for us through the teaching of countless fathers and doctors of the church. The theological enterprise has been the source of untold good.
Paul selected the way in which he felt the faith could best be presented. It was not a great success. We have the opportunity to draw on the wisdom of the ages. Sometimes our efforts are blessed with remarkable success; other times not. Some occasions call for new approaches; others, for those which are more traditional. In any case it is always the one risen Christ who remains at the center of our efforts.
May the Spirit of truth come and guide us to all truth, about ourselves, in our mutual relations, concerning what is going on in our world, especially to discover the cure for Covid-19 ravaging the entire world presently. May God give our world this Spirit and bless us, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!