Today’s first reading from Chapter Seventeen of the Acts of the Apostles is a favorite with many people. It pictures Athenians as people who were occupied with philosophical discussions the way Jacksonville people occupy themselves talking about football teams. The Athenians even had a stadium, the Areopagus, where visitors aired fresh theories before eager audiences.
The men on the street corners of Athens heard Paul professing his belief in another life following this one. They even heard him insisting that it was a better life than ours. That had them escorting Paul to the Areopagus. They told him to speak freely.
He began by acknowledging the Athenians to be a most religious people. He observed that while every Mediterranean port had its own god, the Athenian merchants who set up shop in those ports, had brought back images of the gods. In his sightseeing, Paul had stopped to examine the altars honoring those gods that the Athenians had set up on their street corners.
He mentioned one of those altars, cleverly using it to lead into his message. He said, “I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.”
He gave a name to that unknown God. It was Yahweh. He went on to give us the Scripture’s finest statement about our God. He said, “He is not far from any of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.”