Who are YOU Listening to?

I am always amazed at the first reading for today, which comes from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 8.

It’s the one about the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip.

Here’s how it goes:

Philip, getting word from an angel, heads down to Gaza as instructed. Along the way he meets a eunuch, who is a court official in charge of the queen’s treasury.

Scripture tells us that the eunuch was returning home after being in Jerusalem to worship.  In fact, when Philip met up with him, the eunuch was sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah.

Being divinely prompted, Philip ran up to meet the chariot and asks the eunuch if he understands what he’s reading and he replies, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”

He then invited Philip to get in his chariot and sit with him and he listened to the Isaiah passage he was reading from. As their conversation continued, “Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.”

Now that’s an interesting story, but here comes my favorite part.  As they are going down the road, they come to some water, and the eunuch says:

“Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.”

I love the eunuch’s first question:

“How can I, [understand] unless someone instructs me?” 

Let that question linger in your mind.  Ponder it deeply. How is it that anyone can come to understand God’s Word if they just sit home by themselves and try to figure it out or interpret it for themselves? 

We all need a wise guide to help us.  We need our priests, our educators, our theologians and scripture scholars. We need instruction. And, of course, we should never simply give up, thinking it is too far beyond our capacity to comprehend, even minimally, because the bible is one way God speaks to us.  It is definitely worth making the effort to understand!

Secondly, what amazes me about this story is its simplicity.  Think about it.  The eunuch is literally baptized in the nearest body of water they happen to come across!

That being said, you may have noticed the eunuch was clearly ready to be baptized as his desire for God was already evident.  Also keep in mind that he was baptized by Philip, who was probably a deacon.

Okay, let’s pull this together with today’s reading from the Gospel of John (6:44-51)

Jesus is talking to the crowds and now we can see where Philip, later on, could have gotten the idea for his first question to the eunuch about whether he understands what he is reading.

Jesus says to the crowd, “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.”

So we have Philip opening his mouth and proclaiming scripture, and Jesus telling the crowds to learn from the Father.  In fact, Jesus quoting the prophets, says, “They shall all be taught by God.”

I think I see a pattern here.  Learn from wise teachers.  When it comes to understanding scripture, the sacraments (such as baptism) or even faith, consider who you are taking instruction from, for there may be a lot of smart people who can tell you lots of things, but finding a wise person who can proclaim Jesus to you might be worth the search.

Janet Cassidy
janetcassidy.blubrry.net (podcasts)


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