The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey. Now it happened that an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia, and was in fact her chief treasurer. He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and meet that chariot.’ When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ ‘How can I’ he replied ‘unless I have someone to guide me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit by his side. Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this:
Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a lamb that is dumb in front of its shearers,
like these he never opens his mouth.
He has been humiliated and has no one to defend him.
Who will ever talk about his descendants,
since his life on earth has been cut short!
The eunuch turned to Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’ Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the Good News of Jesus to him.
Further along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, there is some water here; is there anything to stop me being baptised?’ He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and Philip baptised him. But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea.
Jesus said to the crowd:
‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.
‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
I am the bread of life
When was the last time you spoke about Jesus to a non-Christian? My response to that question would be that I cannot recall ever having done so. Sure, I have done numerous personal sharings about my faith and spiritual life in small groups, but the audience was always Catholic. I do believe that my calling lies in working with fellow believers, but it always bugs me when I imagine myself sharing my faith with a non-Christian and I draw a blank. I do not even know how and where to start, and I know I would fear jeopardising the friendship if I end up sounding too ‘pushy’.
I thought that today’s first reading is a beautiful account of evangelization. Philip obediently follows the call of the Lord without knowing what is in store for him. He ends up meeting a foreigner and explaining scripture to him, likely by drawing links between the Old Testament readings and the messianic message and person of Christ. The Ethiopian official is receptive and humble in seeking knowledge, and what Philip said must have struck a chord with him, such that he asks to be baptized almost right away when he saw a body of water. I wonder what their conversation was like, for the Ethiopian to express such conviction and enthusiasm for the faith.
Some may assert, and I have definitely heard it said before, that it is more important to live the Word through one’s actions, attitude and behavior towards others, rather than know a lot about scripture but lead a life devoid of Christian values. Even so, this does not excuse one from not knowing scripture. Anyone can lead a life based on Christian values, yet not know Christ. I see a responsibility for practising Christians to have a kind of script in their minds that they can readily share with others; something that integrates their life experiences with the redeeming power of the Lord.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray that more people will recognise their thirst and hunger for the living God.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the tireless evangelical work of missionaries, priests and lay people.