The first reading gives us a great story. With a crowd from Thessalonica gunning for Paul, Silas and Timothy got him onto a boat headed for Athens, promising to catch up with him later. Wandering around the great city of Athens, Paul was impressed by the number of shrines dedicated to the gods brought from the Mediterranean ports where the Athenians conducted trade. He came on an altar inscribed to the unknown god.
Later, when he was invited to address the crowds in the Areopagus coliseum, he announced hat he was an emissary from that unknown god, whom he declared to be the creator of heaven and earth. Then, he made one of the most wonderful statements in all of Scripture. He said God “is not far from any one of us, for in him we live, and move, and have out being.”
God is spiritually in our minds. He inhabits our imagination. We are in instant communication with him. I loved reading a few little pieces written by a priest named John Henaghan who was shot by the Japanese in Manila in 1945. Friends used to call Father Henaghan the Birdeen, the little bird, because he said things so sweetly. I liked this sentence people remembered from a talk he gave. He said, “Quick as thought, and as far reaching as the lightening flash is a prayer. It goes from our hearts to the heart of God, and within the heart of a poor soul struggling for understandin, comes God’s grace, a torrent on the desert places of the soul.
But in addition to this spiritual nearness of God, there is something like a natural nearness of God that we read of in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. There John wrote,“All things were made through him.” By saying everything was made through the Word he was saying that all nature is modeled after the image of himself God sees when he looks upon the divine Word. John went on to write, “What came to be through him was Life, and this Life is the light of the world.”
A little further on, at verse fourteen of that first chapter John was to write, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt amongst us” That made God present in the world through the person of Jesus. But even before that, four verses back, John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world knew him not.”
John was saying God was somehow already present in the world by reason of the Godly element implanted in Nature.
Dante, in his Divine Comedy, expressed his belief that the God-like element in Nature is the divine order pervading all nature.
Dante dramatized that point in the final stage of the Divine Comedy when in his poem he arrived in heaven, and he began asking how everything around him was somehow like the good things he experienced in our world.
The reply Beatrice gave to that was, “All things possess among themselves an order, and this order is the form that makes the universe like God.”