Acts 17:15:22-18:1; Ps 148:1,2,11,12-14; Jn 16:12-15
The New Israel is the people close to God sharing with all the nations in the glory of the Creator of Heaven and earth. Indeed, his glory is revealed in the full humanity of all the peoples: kings of the earth, princes, judges, young men, maidens, old men and boys! In lifting up the horn of his people, in lifting up the Christ on the cross and in the glory, the LORD of heaven and earth summons forth the praise from all his faithful ones, from the children of Israel, the people close to him. In the Areopagus Saint Paul preaches the revelation of the glory of God in Christ the crucified and risen one, but most of those who heard him sneered or put him off for another day. They could not bear it. In the Gospel the Lord Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth would guide the disciples to all truth because they could not bear it now. We, too, hesitate to accept all truth. We, too, find the truth of the glory too much to bear, even now. We are not fully alive; we are not fully human. We are the glory of God when we are fully alive in Christ, and that means when we are lifted up on the cross.
At the very point where pagan philosophers are most in need of Gospel revelation they seem least open to the cross and resurrection. The education Gentiles of the day have no room in their understanding of the heavens and the earth for the mystery of Christ raised up on the cross in the glory. They were to seek God, yes, to grope for him and perhaps eventually to find him—though he is not really far from any one of us. Such a noble quest among the philosophers is reflected in the larger society where in their temples one could find an altar “to a God unknown.” Saint Paul seeks to make known The Unknown One, yet his audience is not impressed. They already have a clear-cut notion of the universe and its gods. To even consider the possibility of the incarnation and resurrection is offensive to both their understanding of the divine and the human. Such attitudes limited the success of Saint Paul’s preaching; both back in Athens and today in our society. The Gospel of glory is too much for our contemporaries as it was for our ancestors.
Even the disciples of the Lord Jesus are slow to understand what it meant that the Lord Jesus had to rise from the dead. In the time between the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his final coming in glory, the disciples have been given the Spirit of Truth. The Lord Jesus wants to reveal so much more to his closest followers, but they are not ready to receive it all. Even though they do not fully grasp the truth and light of Christ, the disciples will be able to gradually understand because of the Spirit-Paraclete who gives peace in the midst of their lack of clarity. Both the Lord Jesus and The Paraclete make known the glory that comes from The Father. They are truly one in this glory to which we are summoned by this Easter Season and in our baptism and confirmation. Indeed, this glory that fills heaven and earth is the same glory that transforms us. We are destined to share the fullness of glory with the Father, Son and Spirit. This glory is not just our future. This glory is available now in the Eucharist in which we become what we eat. Such truth is almost too much to bear, and perhaps that’s why heaven and earth seem so full of anything but glory. Perhaps the hesitancy of the disciples and the hard-heartedness of the Athenians are still alive and well today.