If you don't usually read the readings before you read these reflections, please read today's first reading! It's a beautiful, evangelical discourse that speaks truth into the hearts of all while acknowledging and respecting the hearers unique experience to this point in their lives.
I absolutely love this passage because it speaks to the innermost longing of our human hearts. The Athenians erect an altar "To an Unknown God." Their lives were ruled by gods. Everything that they did, they did to appease the gods they thought brought them blessing and hardship. This is their religious sensibility. They didn't know the God of Israel, the one, true God, and yet they saw Him as though through a veil.
Paul says of God:
"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."
God so ordered the world as to reveal Himself to us. The good, the true, and the beautiful pervade nature and human life. There is no escaping from the presence of God. Everything that God made, God made to introduce Himself to His children. Our church fathers called this reality the "seeds of the Word." God has laid the foundation of the Gospel in nature and in our human hearts and it's fullness is achieved when a person hears of the saving work of Jesus and accepts Him as their Lord.
This is what happens in the story of Paul and the Athenians today. Paul cultivates the seeds of the Word and nourishes them to bear fruit in the hearts of the Athenians. "Look at your life! Look at how God has been working so subtly," Paul says. "Everything you've ever experienced makes sense when you look at it through the lens of Jesus Christ."
What are the seeds of the Word that you can see in your own life? When I was on my silent retreat as a missionary, God shared with me an awesome revelation of one in my own life.
I was praying about the phrase, "Everything that happens is either willed or allowed by God to work for our good." It's certainly a big idea, but God was playful with me that day haha.
EVERYTHING that has happened is part of God's providential plan to draw me close to His very heart. You know what that includes?
In my holy imagination, God showed me when He was creating the world. He created the earth and the skies and the lights that ruled the day and the night and they were very good. God created the forests and the trees and the flowers and the plants and they were very good. Then came time for God to create the coffee bean.
God drew me close. He showed me how he fashioned that beautiful green plant in the warm, humid mountainous climate. He smiled as He hid away the little split, green bean in the center of the immaculate little red cherry. As He tediously made every part of the coffee plant, He knew that one day His beloved children would discover that little bean. They would dry the bean in the sun, roast it under fire's heat, grind it, filter water through it. Men and women great and small would come to be blessed because of this little coffee bean.
As God and I stood there in the garden and He showed me His creation, He smiled and took me under His arm and said, "Amanda, when I created the coffee bean, I did it with you in mind. I knew that the gift of coffee would bless you and that it would bring you joy. I made it for you so that you could enjoy my creation. I made coffee so that you would know how much I love you."
This is such a silly thing, but I'm honestly sitting at my laptop tearing up because that Holy Hour is still so real for me. God really and truly did think of me as He was creating coffee. When He placed the idea of the instrument called "banjo" in the mind of it's inventor, He was thinking of me and how much I would love the music people would create with it.
These are seeds of the Word. These are created things that reveal to me a love beyond all telling. They can be more profound, but they can be very simple. Anything good, true, and beautiful are seeds of the Word. Literature, movies, art, conversation, technology, good food, works of mercy, etc. etc. etc. are all seeds of the Word.
There's so much more I could say about this idea. Bishop Barron wrote a book about it. But I'll stop for now. My challenge for you today is to take some time to pray about how God might be trying to reveal the Good News to you in a little way, because you are loved. You are so, so loved, and He wants to show you that. Pray about how God might be revealing the Good News to someone you love and how you can be like Paul to that person. It just starts by recognizing the seeds of the Word.
And also enjoy this article about the Catholic history of coffee :)
-Amanda Nobis, Director of Evangelization