6 Easter, Year A: The Hidden Ground of Love

Sunday’s Readings | 6 Easter, May 14

Acts 17:22-31
Ps. 66:7-18
1 Pet. 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

Speaking in the Areopagus outside Athens, St. Paul points out, and not with disapproval, that the Athenians “are extremely religious in every way,” evidence of which are the many objects of worship throughout the city. He then turns his attention to “an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god,’” which he uses to introduce his understanding of God and to announce a final judgment in righteousness by a “man whom he has appointed,” namely Jesus, whom God has raised from the dead (Acts 17:22-23, 31).

Before announcing the good news of Jesus Christ, however, Paul fully acknowledges that God “has made all nations to inhabit the world” and has imbued them with a desire for him, so that “they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27). Thus, a seed of the gospel is planted everywhere, in every culture, in every human aspiration for goodness, truth, and beauty. All authentic evangelism necessarily begins with a profound sensitivity to God’s preceding grace in all human cultures and the vast nexus of the cosmos.

Starting, then, from a religious sentiment already present among the Athenians, Paul says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24-25). Paul insists that God, as the maker of all things, is qualitatively different from creation, free from necessity and absolutely self-subsisting.

Strictly speaking, God does not need the creation in order to exist. Why, then, is there anything at all? Why does God not remain in a boundless and eternal bliss? Incredibly — and this is the salient point to which the Christian tradition is unfailingly committed — God creates from an eternal wellspring of infinite freedom and love. As we say in Eucharistic Prayer A, “Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself” (BCP, p. 362). To cite another lovely example, 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich ponders the cause of all things, saying, “He made all things for love, by the same love keepeth them, and shall keep them without end” (Revelations, cap. 8).

We are invited to know and feel divine love present in our lives. “I will ask the Father,” Jesus says, “and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be with you.” The Spirit of truth is no less the Spirit of love. Indeed, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Perhaps you don’t believe this, or can’t believe it even though you would like to, or simply do not in any sense feel the presence of divine love. The pressing weight of pain and disappointment, worry and sorrow, and suffering in its many forms may rob you of a sense that God abides in you and loves you. Sadly, this dark night comes to everyone at some time as an almost irrefutable truth. In such moments or seasons, be gentle with yourself; do not force faith. Let God, in provident time, come to you. Although your spirit may feel locked in a dark prison, the eternal Son of the Father will seek you out; he will preach to you in words of filial love. He will take your hand and lead you out and up (1 Pet. 3:19).

Look It Up: The Collect

Think About It: The whole creation is a sacramental sign.


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