If we want to understand the circumstances of the Ethiopian, we need to know exactly who this man was. First, the passage tells us that he was a man of authority, a eunuch who served the queen of Ethiopia directly. One who was a eunuch was not a threat to the queen and so he was able to be closer to her than any other person in her service. What is more important, however, is the significance of why the author mentioned the man’s physical ‘status’: a eunuch was a self-mutilated man and therefore considered unclean by Jewish law. Therefore when he was in Jerusalem he could not have entered the part of the Temple where the rabbis instructed people about the faith. This is why he had no one to interpret the Scripture for him. The eunuch was obviously a devout believer, desirous of growing in his faith, and so God sent the apostle Philip to help him. The joy and fervor of Philip, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, obviously flowed outward to the receptive eunuch, who asked for baptism and thus received it in the nearby water. The Spirit of the Lord then ‘snatched Philip away to another city,’ and the man brought the faith back to Ethiopia with him, spreading Christianity far outside Israel for the first time.
Another challenge brought to us through the passage from Acts, however, is whether we rise to the occasion to be like Philip in sharing our faith when opportunities present themselves. If we are waiting for someone ‘more qualified’ to share faith, we will continually miss the chance to share the beauty of being a member of the Body of Christ and the joy of knowing Jesus. Granted, Philip was an apostle and only those who are apostles (bishops today) have the authority to interpret Scripture and to therefore teach it. But we all need to be witnesses to our faith, just as the eunuch did when he returned to Ethiopia. What we learn from him is that while we may not be as qualified as Philip was, we are all ‘qualified’ to love. That is, if we have been baptized, if we are believers in that which has been handed down to us, then we are meant to ‘instruct’ others in the faith by our word and deed; we are witnesses to it through the mercy and love by which we behave. Just as Philip interpreted the Scriptures for the eunuch so that he could understand who Jesus was and why He came, we can bring people to Jesus, too. We do not have to be quoting chapter and verse, but what will evangelize is our love.
©Michele L. Catanese
The title of this entry is a reference to the passage which the Ethiopian was pondering, Isaiah 53:8. It was quoted in Acts 8:33.
The first image is an icon of Philip and the Ethiopian. It shows the hand of God imparting the wisdom with which Philip teaches, and also the angel who inspired him to leave Jerusalem. It also shows that the Ethiopian is indeed a man of authority because of the opulence of the chariot in which he is riding. Last, you can see the water nearby which represents his baptism at the end of the passage.
Next is a photo of my Bible. You can see that there are highlights within it. I took the photo with the pencil on the desk so that it would represent study. Our Bibles are meant to be written in!
Next is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called St. Benedict Joseph Labre Patron of Homeless and Lost. It depicts his chosen poverty, but also that he carries the light of Christ and as I see it, the light of holiness. God's hand, as in the first icon, reaches out in blessing and mercy. Benedict's eyes are always heavenward. You can find it at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-benedict-joseph-labre-062-william-hart-mcnichols.html. You can purchase a copy there, or you can peruse the other icons by Fr. Bill.
Next is a photo I took of some stained glass while in Nevers, France. This depicts St. Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes as Mary appeared to her.
The gallery to follow are also my photos. The first is the tomb of St. Benedict Joseph Labre which is in the church where he died in Rome, Santa Maria ai Monti. The second is the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette in her glass tomb in Nevers, France. The final photo is the grotto of Massabielle at Lourdes as it appears today. The statue is at the exact spot where Bernadette saw Our Lady.
The last photo is also mine. It is of the sky over New Mexico.