“And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean.’ Now all the Athenians and the visiting foreigners spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new (τι καινότερον, something newer). So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…’” (Acts 17: 19-23)
So these people, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new,” were somewhat like us. We also spend a lot of our time keeping up with “the news” and sharing it. St. Paul takes advantage of this penchant of the people for “news” in Athens, to share “the good news” with them.
Can the apostles and preachers of our time take advantage of our addiction to “the news”? The problem with doing that in our time, one might think, is that “the good news” is no longer “new” for us. But it can be, and should be, if we internalize and contextualize the word of God in today’s world, giving birth to it again and again, in ever-new ways, in our here and now, rather than engaging in what Fr. George Florovsky called “a theology of repetition,” or merely repeating quotes of dead theologians. St. Paul contextualizes the life-giving word of God by noting something familiar to the Athenians of his time, “an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown God,” and using this familiar object to catch their attention.
Let me go and do likewise, whenever I am called to share “the good news” in my day, that it may be what it is meant to be, ever-“new” and relevant, to every generation, including mine.