HOW CAN I UNDERSTAND, UNLESS SOMEONE INSTRUCTS ME? The Ethiopian On Your Street

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:26-40) recounts the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. 

This guy was a powerful officer in the court of the queen, in charge of her entire treasury.  He was riding along through the desert in his chariot, reading the prophet Isaiah, when Philip—who had been prompted by an angel to catch up with the chariot—strode up alongside the eunuch and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” 

“How can I understand,” asked the eunuch, “unless I have someone to explain it to me?”  And he invited Philip to join him in the coach so they could talk.  He read Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth….

“Who,” he asked, “is he writing about?”  And with such an opportunity before him, Philip proceeded to explain the Scriptures—teaching the powerful politician how the Old and New Testaments intersected, how Isaiah had prophesied about the coming of the Messiah, how Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, had risen from the dead, and had truly redeemed the world.   

The eunuch, on hearing the message of the Gospel, was converted and asked to be baptized on the spot. 

*     *     *     *     *

The story of the Ethiopian eunuch is a reminder for all of us that sometimes, we just need to reach out and explain ourselves—that there are people in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, perhaps even in our families, who are ready to embrace Truth but who first need to hear the Gospel explained in simple terms.

Like the Ethiopian eunuch, these people are not in the pews on Sunday morning.  You may be the only “Philip” they will meet along the way—and only through you will they ever hear the story of Redemption. 

So tell them! 

If you’re not sure where to start, then read a book—a good place to start might be Peter Kreeft’s Handbook of Catholic Apologetics or, shorter still, Patrick Madrid’s Pocket Guide to Catholic Apologetics.  Or read the Gospel of John (and maybe the Acts of the Apostles) as preparation for questions from your non-believing friends.


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