The Reality of God’s Presence Among Us

Today’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles (17:15, 22-18:1) and the Gospel of John (16:12-15) present us with the critical question of who God is, and where and how human beings come to the knowledge of God. Conversely, they also reveal how God’s presence is manifested in human existence. They inspire us to reflect on how we think of God and ask questions such as, “Who is God?”

This question is the subject of today’s First Reading. Paul preaches at the Areopagus in Athens, where he encounters an altar dedicated to “an unknown God.” He seizes the moment to enlighten the Athenians, asserting, “What you worship without knowing, I proclaim to you.” This narrative introduces us to a God who is both immanent and transcendent—closer to us than we often realize, yet beyond our full comprehension.

“To An Unknown God”

The understanding of God could serve as a hermeneutical (related to the theory and methodology of interpretation) category for encounter with life. Granted, people’s worldviews, theology, and understanding of human nature vary. Yet, we cannot reach a full understanding of who God is. The human capacity cannot exhaust the reality of God, the world and what happens in it. What we know is that we are part of God’s existence and that he is in our world and beyond us, too.

Let me present some of the texts from the reading and some of Apostle Paul’s words to the Athenians concerning God and his presence. “Paul stood in the center of the Areopagus and said: ‘Athenians, from what I can see, you are particularly pious people. For when I went around and looked at your shrines, I also found an altar with the inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What you worship without knowing it, I proclaim to you. God, who created the world and everything in it, He, the Lord of heaven and earth… He created the whole human race… He is not far from any of us. For in Him, we live, we move, and we are, as some of your poets have also said: We are of His kind.”

Discernment as Part of the Life of Faith

In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative but will speak what he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come.”

I find it important that Jesus said, “There are other things that I did not tell you but which the Spirit will tell you.” This statement, in the narrative sense, points to the hermeneutics and ongoing aspect of Faith as Truth and our understanding of God, our faith, and existence.

The Spirit accompanies us in this discerning and interpretive experience. This is equally the work of grace. The encounter with existence is the context where we find the necessity for grace for understanding. It also affirms the first reading that God as truth is inexhaustible, and that God’s presence is new each day and is received and interpreted in every age in a new way.

Human Openness to God’s Life-giving Presence

The disposition to encounter God as truth and life in the experiences of our immediate environment, the world in which we live, and in the world beyond us is an important aspect of human life. We can appreciate what we see and what lies beyond us. Whether we believe in God as creator, or as a divine presence; whether we prefer to pray to him in our hearts and serve him in others; or whether we practice an active faith, openness is required for life with God and for discernment.

In openness to human beings, we encounter grace. Grace comes through encounters, but encounters can only take place through openness to grace. The worldview, theology, and the view of anthropology one holds are, however, inevitable. Yet, in the light of faith, they inspire us to come to an understanding of God in our lives. We pray to the Spirit for the grace of openness. Amen.

[Readings: Acts 15: 17:15, 22-18:1; John 16:12-15]

Sr. Olisaemeka Rosemary

Rev. Sr. Dr. Olisaemeka Okwara is a Catholic nun of the Daughters of Divine Love Congregation. She is a Systematic theologian, a writer, and a researcher at Julius-Maximilians -Universität Würzburg, Germany. Email: [email protected]


  1. Jerry DEMELO Jr on May 8, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you for this reflection

Leave a Comment