Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
April 27, 2023
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read the fascinating account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. The story, filled with heavenly manifestations, may seem “other-worldly” to us and, in a way, that’s just what it is.
There is a new world – a New Covenant – sprung from Christ through the power of his Resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles is the proclamation of that New World given to us in a series of stories and miracles generated through the Holy Spirit.
And the story of the Ethiopian eunuch is a powerful one, offering a spectrum of interpretations and applications to our own spiritual life. However, using today’s Gospel as a lynchpin, let’s explore one particular concept.
In the passage from John, Jesus tells the crowds:
“No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father
and learns from him comes to me.
In other words, in order to truly understand our reality, we must allow the Spirit of God to enter our hearts and minds — because there is more to what is than meets the eye!
We cannot truly interpret our world with only our own intellectual resources. Our knowledge and understanding must be fed by God so that we may see the deep Spirit living under our otherwise thin perception of life.
In our passage from Acts, the Ethiopian is a person of faith, a worshipper who seeks God. But he has hit a wall. He realizes that he cannot fully understand God’s revelation without a Spirit-inspired teacher. And lucky him – the Spirit decides to plunk Philip down in the middle of the desert to be that very teacher!
The context of the story tells us that God wants us all to be fully incorporated into God’s own life —
- no matter how far out we are in our spiritual “deserts”
- no matter what physical elements define or limit us
- no matter what walls we hit when trying to live a faithful life
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is the new and perfect source of nourishment for our yearning spirits. It is the Spirit of Jesus that Philip has brought to the Ethiopian.
Amen, amen, I say to you,John 6:47-51
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”
Now I doubt that we’re going to find Philip waiting by our “chariot” out in the driveway tomorrow morning. So how are we to be “taught by God“. Here are some ways that I think can help:
- faithful prayer informed by good spiritual reading
- devoted scripture study and prayer
- spiritual retreat and reflection
- spiritual companionship with others sincerely seeking God
Poetry: Soliloquy of the Ethiopian Eunuch – Robert Phillips
The miracle began with a miracle.
I was sitting in my gold-trimmed chariot
(well, not exactly my chariot—like all
my accoutrements, it belongs to her—
Candace, Queen of all the Ethiopians.
But since she put me in charge of her treasure,
I have the opportunity to live high.
Beauty has its privileges, and I don't mean
Candace. I'm here to tell you: That girl
Wasn't around when they passed out looks).
There I was, biding my time in the chariot,
near Jerusalem where I'd gone to worship.
I'd just passed Gaza, a real cultural desert.
I was studying Isaiah the Prophet
when suddenly this white man was translated—
there's absolutely no other word for it—
he literally was translated from wherever
to right next to me. It was the damndest thing!
He just stood there, ahuffing and apuffing.
Then he says with the greatest impertinence.
"Do you understand that book you're reading?"
His meaning was undeniable: the fact
that I'm black must have implied I'm illiterate,
or ignorant at best, despite my purple
silk robe and heavily gilded chariot.
I said, "This Isaiah is a heavy dude.
Perhaps you can shed some light on this passage?"
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
and like a lamb dumb before her shearer,
so opened he not his mouth . … "So who's the he?"
I asked. "Is this Isaiah talking
about himself, or is he palavering about
somebody else?" And Whitey (his real name was
Philip; it means Lover of Horses—ha!)
Whitey explained to me the "he" was Jesus,
and began to preach about the humiliation
of Jesus, and how his judgment was taken
away before his life on earth was taken,
and how he said not one word to save himself.
And now, in order to be saved, a body
must be baptized in the holy name of God.
I took it all in. Then he clambered inside
the chariot, and we commenced riding north,
which was where he came from before translated.
Presently we came upon a teensy pond.
"Here's some H20. So what's to keep you from
baptizing me on the spot?" That set him off
preaching some more: "If you believe with all
your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
blah blah blah, I'll do it." Seems this Jesus cat
charged him and a bunch of other honkies
to preach all nations about this Jesus stuff.
I told him with my dusky skin I qualified as
"all nations." So I stopped the chariot,
and we both sashayed down to the water hole.
And hallelujah, he baptized me! In the name
of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Like to drowned me. The waters of salvation
ran down my dreadlocks. My gloomy skin took on
a peaceful hue. My black soul became dove white.
Then that lover of horses disappeared—poof!
It was enough to make my head spin, popping
in and out of the desert like that. Later
I heard Philip was preaching in this city
and that, creating real photo opportunities.
When I got back to the palace, I camped it up
about being saved, being washed in the blood
of the Lamb, and how this black soul now was white
as snow. (Though I confess I've never seen snow.
It's just one of those things you take on faith.)
Queen Candace had a hissy fit, stomped her foot
because she hadn't been baptized and her eunuch
had. I told her she'd just have to wait until
Philip or one of that gang of ten others
came her way. But she never did. I don't think
they thought hateful ugly queens much worth saving .
Now don't think being a eunuch is easy.
It was done so I could better serve my God
and my queen. I continued to lust in my heart.
But now I'm saved, I sleep the sleep of the just.
Music: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise – Walter C. Smith
2 thoughts on “Taught By God …”
Thank you, Sister Renee! 🙂❤️🙏
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That soliloquy! Sr., I don’t think I’ll be able to get anything done today. I was pretty comfy and felt solid in my reflections on today’s readings. Then, I got knocked off my high horse. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this mega dose of humiliation with us. I have so much growing to do.
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