Q. Acts 17:24 says that “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands.” Is this a criticism of the tabernacles and Churches that reserve the Blessed Sacrament? Is it a criticism of the priesthood?
A. The Apostle Paul spoke these words to the Athenians of his day, who worshiped false gods in temples where they were said to “live.”
The Athenians believed that their gods were located in only one place at a time, and that the homes of these gods were the constructed temples and shrines the Athenians built. These were the places, they believed, where they could pray, and the places where they could offer sacrifices to their gods. Paul was speaking to the Athenians about the omnipresence, and the omnipotence, of the true God. He wanted them to know that God did not require food or other sacrifices in order to be sustained, as the Greek gods did— that even the Jewish sacrifices were a form of worship, and were not required for God to continue to exist. The Athenians felt required to “care for their gods”—to sustain them and support them. The Greek gods depended on the worship and support of the Greek people.
The Blessed Sacrament is nothing like those ancient pagan temples. God is everywhere. He takes the form of bread and wine for our sake— so that he can enter our bodies, and our hearts, in the most intimate way possible. The priesthood is a gift that allows us to grow closer to the Lord through the sacramental life, but, unlike those pagan gods, even without priests, even without Christians, even without humanity at all, God would continue to exist, in perfect love. God does not depend on us. He does not need us. He comes us to—and reveals himself to us, and shares his life with us—in love. God pursues us not out of necessity, but out of love. Consider that— “the God who made the world and everything in it,” has no need for us at all. But he loves enough to come to earth; to live, die, and be resurrected; and to be present in our lives and our hearts through the Church, the Holy Spirit, and the sacramental life.
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