|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter V: ”The Wonderful Effects of God’s Love” (third entry)
Jesus loves us. God created all things out of love — not out of necessity but to share His love. We are made for greatness, to share in the divine life here on earth and to contemplate the Blessed Trinity for all eternity in heaven. We know of our innate drive for perfection based on our earthly desires. This is a hint of the divine perfection for which we ultimately long and that can only be fulfilled by the Divine Author.
|Today’s First Reading, Acts 17:15, 22—18:1
In this passage, we are given Paul’s full speech to those present in the Areopagus in Athens. After several days of preaching and debating, he is asked by some of the Greek philosophers to explain further “this new teaching is that you speak of[.] For you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean” (vv. 19-20). Paul, who, when exploring the city, had grown “exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols” (v. 16), now seizes on one particular temple hoping to move his listeners hearts. He goes on to preach a beautiful discourse on the one true God, creator of all, who does not dwell in temples or has need of our services, but rather provides everything to us. Now the time of ignorance of God is over, and that the time for repentance has come. He concludes by speaking of a day of justice now established through “a man [God] has appointed” whom He has raised from the dead.
Some of those present scoff at the notion of resurrection, others brush him off with, essentially, “come back some other time,” and a few actually join his ministry as he departs.
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:48)
We strive for perfection here to better prepare for our eternal goal: eternal beatitude with the Lord. It is by emulating the love of God, only possible through the impetus of His love, expressed by Him to us as grace, that we can even approach this state. While not even the greatest saints would ever have the temerity to think they had reached perfection in this life, their heroically virtuous behavior is what we are called to emulate. The saints wished to do “great things” stimulated by love of God and neighbor. And so Paul, due to his missionary zeal and the urgency of the need to pull peoples from ignorance to repentance, brings the Good News to Athens.
Does love of God and desire to do “great things” stimulate us to a zeal to break others free from the ignorance of not knowing the fullness of divine revelation? Are we willing and able to proclaim the truth to seekers who do not know God or who have rejected Him? Let us learn our faith well, pray for grace often, and ask for heroic virtue to bring the love of God to all whom we encounter.
Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens (1515) by Raphael