Nearly every believer who knows about it concedes the Vatican II Lectionary reform was a great success, actually accomplishing the opening of Scripture to the liturgical assembly.
That said, there are a few glaring omissions. One of my pet obsessions is the loss of the examination of the idea of redemption in the Old Testament. I find to the deepest loss to be the neglect of the Book of Ruth. Two appearances buried in year I, 20th week? Bah! But that’s fodder for another post.
One passage I encountered recently in my daily Lectio Divina was Paul’s address to the Athenians at the Areopagus (above) in Acts 17. Sure, this appears on the 6th Wednesday of Easter–not a total neglect. Maybe it was me, but I found his address to be very profound–a communication of the essence of Easter faith. Paul must have been in the middle of a very good day.
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. (Acts 17:24-31)
That some Athenians were intrigued, others scoffed, and a few followed–that’s not so important as the lucid and lyrical presentation of the essence of the search for God, and God’s utter nearness to human beings. That’s why I think just these eight verses belong on a Sunday somewhere in Easter. This message is something many of us need to hear today.
What’s not to love about this passage?
God doesn’t need our worship, or especially our offerings. He made it all. It all came from his hands–not ours.
The progression from seeking to groping to finding: this is bluntly honest. We look for God, and sometimes we are desperate enough to grab at things, to sense for something that’s not quite illuminated. But God is near, so we indeed find him, as God makes himself known to us.
We can’t capture God’s nearness in things: pretty metals and idols and symbols. For Christians these are not God. Our music, our art, our churches: these point to God. They help us blunder about in the dark.
And in those final verses: we have entered an evangelical age. Now is the time for everyone to know about Jesus. Now is the time for listening, comprehending, seeing, and acting.
How can this speech not be part of our Sunday tradition some time during the Easter season?