Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles and our Gospel from Chapter Sixteen of John’s Gospel are both tremendously important to us.
In the first reading Paul seems to be seeing Athens for the first time. As a tourist, he wandered the streets, on every corner seeing a shrine to some foreign god the sailors have brought back with them from distant ports. He fell in with a group having one of the philosophic conversations so common in Athens, and they brought him to an amphitheater where any speaker with a message was allowed to speak.
Paul commented on the many gods honored in Athens, then, he mentioned one altar dedicated to an “Unknown God.” He used that peculiarity as a way of introducing the Creator of heaven and earth. Saying of him, “He is not far from any one of us. For, in him we live and move and have our being.”
Throughout the Old Testament God was seen as being locked away in his heaven far above us. What Paul said to the Athenians was revolutionary and it is most wonderful for us to think on.
Let me briefly mention a line from the Gospel. After the Last Supper, in his final words to the Apostles Jesus said, “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.”
Jesus spoke of things the Apostles could not bear to hear at that time. That could refer to the right solution to questions that would arise in the future. They would be questions that would arise as a result of future twists and turns that the Apostles had no way of knowing in advance. When they would be confronted with unexpected problems they would need to come together, depending on the Holy Spirit to lead them to the right decisions. These words of Jesus prepared the way for the great Ecumenical Councils at which through the centuries the Church received the guidance of the Spirit to handle difficulties.