Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 8,26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'Set out at noon and go along the road that leads from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.' So he set off on his journey. Now 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; he was 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 join that chariot.' When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How could I, unless I have someone to guide me?' So he urged Philip to get in and sit by his side. Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this: Like a lamb led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb in front of its shearers, he never opens his mouth. In his humiliation fair judgement was denied him. Who will ever talk about his descendants, since his life on earth has been cut short? The eunuch addressed 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,is some water; is there anything to prevent my being baptised?' He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and he 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 appeared in Azotus and continued his journey, proclaiming the good news in every town as far as Caesarea.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

On the road to Gaza, a land now inhabited by the Palestinians, a pilgrim is returning from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. A trusted advisor to Candace, queen of Ethiopia, is sitting in his chariot reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, comes up to him and asks whether he understands what he is reading. The Ethiopian’s reply is sincere: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” We need to pay attention to this reply, because it gives us a good sense of the normal path of a faith journey. No one can give faith to him or herself, and no one can understand Scripture without the help of the community, the help of the Church. Saint Augustine has a beautiful way of describing the link between the reader, the Bible and the Church: “We have to read the Bible on the lap of our Mother the Church.” The Ethiopian, eager to understand what he was reading, invites Philip to sit by his side, to “open” his mind, and help him understand the text. Something similar occurred to the two disciples of Emmaus: they also needed the help of a stranger to be able to understand the Scriptures. All of us need someone to help us understand the Gospel. Each one of us needs to let someone into the chariot of our life to help us understand how the Word of God should be applied to everyday life. None of us can be self-sufficient in our faith. The Ethiopian accepted Philip’s help, stopped the chariot, welcomed him, and after listening asked for baptism. He came to understand the passage he was reading, but above all he discovered the meaning of his life. All those who stop the chariot of their life and let someone help them “enter” the Gospel will then be able to set out on their way with great clarity and strength.