Find the Light Within the Question

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
May 6, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present us with two strikingly different forms of resistance to God’s Word.

In our first reading, we see that the community in Pisidian Antioch has responded positively to Paul’s inaugural preaching. He has returned, by invitation, for a second Sabbath to share the Good News. But the reaction is not so smooth this second time.

In a pattern very similar to what Jesus experienced when he preached in his home town synagogue, Paul meets initial approbation, cynicism, rejection and expulsion. And, like Jesus, he turns on his heel, leaving his rejectors tangled in their own faithless criticisms.

The resistance we see here is active. It is a choice not to believe.

On the following sabbath
almost the whole city
gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. 
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles. 

Acts 13:44-46

Today’s Gospel shows us another kind of resistance to the full embrace of faith.

Philip said to Jesus, 
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” 
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip? 
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. 
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? 

This is a passive resistance, one Philip didn’t even recognize in himself. What was it in him that made him impervious to the presence of God in Jesus? Was Philip dull, distracted, hyper-critical, unreflective?

I can’t speak for Philip, but I can tell you that when I miss a sacred point in my life, it is exectly for those reasons! When the moment of grace has passed me by, I do a swift re-take and realize that I had been caught in one or more of the following passive resistant behaviors:

  • too noisy
  • too opinionated
  • too sure of myself
  • too busy
  • too tired
  • too impatient
  • too scattered

If Philip was in the same boat, he did a good job getting out of it. He sailed on to be one of the great saints and teachers of the Church. Philip really heard Jesus’s answer to his oblivious question:

Jesus said:
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. 
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves. 
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father. 
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

John 14:10-14

May we not miss the point of Christ’s Presence in our lives. May we notice and lower our own resistances to hear the sacred answers right in front of us.

Poetry: After the Rain – Jared Carter

After the rain, it’s time to walk the field
again, near where the river bends. Each year
I come to look for what this place will yield—
lost things still rising here.
The farmer’s plow turns over, without fail,
a crop of arrowheads, but where or why
they fall is hard to say. They seem, like hail,
dropped from an empty sky,
Yet for an hour or two, after the rain
has washed away the dusty afterbirth
of their return, a few will show up plain
on the reopened earth.
Still, even these are hard to see—
at first they look like any other stone.
The trick to finding them is not to be
too sure about what’s known;
Conviction’s liable to say straight off
this one’s a leaf, or that one’s merely clay,
and miss the point: after the rain, soft
furrows show one way
Across the field, but what is hidden here
requires a different view—the glance of one
not looking straight ahead, who in the clear
light of the morning sun
Simply keeps wandering across the rows,
letting his own perspective change.
After the rain, perhaps, something will show,
glittering and strange.

Music: The Light Within – Peter Sterling


Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles
May 3, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel invites us to pray with the Apostle Philip on this his and James’ feast day.

St. James and St. Philip by Peter Paul Rubens

Philip is mentioned several times in John’s Gospel

  • In John 6:6, Jesus engages Philip regarding the feeding of the 5,000.
  • In John 12:21, Philip appears speaks for the Greek community, informing Andrew that they want to be introduced to Jesus.
  • In today’s Gospel, Philip asks Jesus to be shown the Father. Jesus responds with a simple and perfect instruction on one of the most profound mysteries of our faith – the nature of the Trinity.

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 

John 14:9-10

Jesus seems surprised at Philip’s question. Maybe he didn’t think it was that hard to understand the Blessed Trinity! But writers ever since have found it pretty complex. Most notably, St. Augustine took over 15 years to write his masterpiece De Trinitate (On the Trinity). An excellent current English translation by Edmund Hill, OP contains fifteen books in over five hundred pages!

But Jesus makes it pretty simple for Philip. Here’s my interpretation:

Philip, You see me, you see the Creator.
We are perfectly One.
Perfect Love does that.
My words are the Creator’s Words.
My works are completing the Creator’s works Who dwells in me.
It’s not a problem, Philip. You don’t need an answer.
It’s a beautiful Mystery. Just believe and be with it.

The noted 20th century Christian existentialist Gabriel Marcel wrote about the difference between a mystery and a problem.

Marcel worried that a technical ethos was reshaping how we see the world and ourselves. He especially worried about a tendency to reduce mysteries to problems. A problem, for Marcel, is something external to us that can be determinatively understood and solved with a generalizable technique. A mystery, on the other hand, is something in which we are inextricably involved. It has roots deep within us, but it also reaches beyond us. While a problem can be definitively solved, a mystery can only be navigated in light of the concrete situation and the people involved.

Gabriel Marcel: Mystery in an Age of Problems – Steven Knepper

True faith requires that we trust the Mystery of God. Like Philip, we may want answers to the great challenges of life and religion. But these things are not like math problems or scientific equations which can reach human resolution.

Life and faith are more like poetry or music – both of which enter into us and change something deep inside of us. It is a change that cannot be put into words but is nevertheless real. It is mystery.

Knowing and loving our Triune God is the same kind of mystery. We are made of God and God dwells within us. Each of our life experiences offers a small revelation of this overarching Mystery which is far too infinite to ever be packaged in a “solution” such as Philip requests in our Gospel.

Sometimes we may hear ourselves trying to turn the mystery of God into a solvable problem. Do you ever think or voice questions like these:

  • Why does God allow good people to suffer?
  • Why didn’t God just create everybody to be good, to erase evil from the world?
  • Why is God letting THIS (whatever it is) happen to me!

At different times in our spiritual lives, we all suffer from the Big WHY. Some people never get over it, turning atheist or agnostic in their approach to life when they can’t reach an answer. Some, by the grace of God, abide in the questions and come to a place of undefinable peace in the Mystery of God.

Let’s pray to St. Philip today to be granted a measure of the grace he obviously received as he went on to carry the Gospel to Greece, Syria, and Phrygia.

And, although we have concentrated on Philip today, here’s a word about St. James who was obviously very special to Jesus. James, along with his brother John and Peter, formed an informal triumvirate among the Twelve Apostles. Jesus allowed them to be the only apostles present at three quintessential events:

  • Mark 5:37: the Raising of Jairus’ daughter
  • Matthew 17:1: the Transfiguration of Jesus
  • Matthew 26:37: the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

Poetry: If Only – Rainer Maria Rilke from The Book of Hours

If only there were stillness, full, complete.
If all the random and approximate
were muted, with neighbors’ laughter, for your sake,
and if the clamor that my senses make
did not confound the vigil I would keep —
Then in a thousandfold thought I could think
you out, even to your utmost brink,
and (while a smile endures) possess you, giving
you away, as though I were but giving thanks,
to all the living.

Music: Lux Beata Trinitas – the hymn, ascribed to St. Ambrose in the 4th century, is sung here by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen whose mission is “… a performing arts charity which exists to take beautiful and inspiring choral music, from the Renaissance to today, to as wide and diverse an audience as possible.” (English translation of hymn below)

O TRINITY of blessed Light,
O Unity of sovereign might,
as now the fiery sun departs,
shed Thou Thy beams within our hearts.
To Thee our morning song of praise,
to Thee our evening prayer we raise;
Thee may our glory evermore
in lowly reverence adore.
All laud to God the Father be;
all praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God the Holy Paraclete.

Taught By God …

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
April 27, 2023

Today’s Readings:

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.

John 6:44-45

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.

The Baptism of the Eunich – Rembrandt

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,
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.”

John 6:47-51

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

A Dynamic Faith

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
April 26, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings allow us to experience the dynamic nature of faith, as it was experienced in the early Church.And it wasn’t always pretty!

The Stoning of St. Stephen – Rembrandt

Acts tells us of a rising violence toward the Christians, especially those considered “Hellenistic Jews”. There was prejudice against them among the Pharisees even before these Jews converted to Christianity. They were “outsiders “:

The Hellenistic Jews are those who speak mainly Greek, and formerly lived outside of Judea and Galilee. But they had settled in Jerusalem — retired, as it were, to the homeland. Nevertheless, they still have affinities with lands of the Jewish dispersion from which they came. The Hebraic Jews are those who speak mainly Aramaic, and were born in Jerusalem or Judea.

Michael Morrison, PhD, professor of Biblical Studies at Grace Communion Seminary

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a Hellenist, as was Philip mentioned today as the first Christian missionary. He is a different Philip from the Apostle who remained in Jerusalem according to the passage.

As I picture the forces at work in the early Church, I am reminded of the ocean, ever-changing in its flow from peace to storm, yet ever-constant in its tides.

Faith is the anchor holding us steady in the waves, the sextant pointing us toward Christ’s Promise. As our Gospel says:

And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.

John 6: 39-40

Stephen had this vital and tenacious faith, and died for it. Philip had it and shared it. The Apostles had it and held it steady for the rest of us.

How is the vital and dynamic faith living in me? How deeply do I believe and live the Promise? Let’s ask God today to strengthen our faith and to keep our focus on the Promise of eternal life.

Poetry: In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being – Denise Levertov 

Birds afloat in air's current,
sacred breath?  No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It's we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled -- but only the saints
take flight.  We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest.  The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air.  Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storms or still,
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
encompassed, encompassed.

Music: The Promise – Marc Enfroy

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 1, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, an invitation to believe and rejoice in God’s Presence in our lives.

O Lord, You have made known the victory,
You have openly showed your righteousness
in the sight of the nations

Psalm 98: 2-3

In our first reading, as many Jews reject the invitation to Christian faith, the Apostles turn to the Gentiles with their evangelization:

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord. 
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.

Acts 13: 48-49

But our Gospel passage reminds us that the exercise of faith demands an openness to God’s presence. Poor Philip seems to be missing the fact that Jesus – God – is right there with him!

Philip’s statement, “Show us the Father and it will be enough for us” translates like this for me: prove everything and then we can believe. I smile at Philip’s simplicity but then realize I am not that different from him. I often ask for proof of God’s Presence in my circumstances completely forgetting the fact that God is already and always there!

When thinking about faith, these two complementary passages both challenge and sustain me. I pray with them often:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

But hope that is seen is not hope.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24-25

This kind of Resurrection faith and hope allow us to receive and rejoice in the Good News the Apostles preach in Acts today, and to proclaim it as encouraged in our Psalm:

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done marvellous things,
whose mighty hand and holy arm have won the victory.
O Lord, You remember your mercy and faithfulness toward us,
and all the ends of the earth have seen your victory, O God.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands;
lift up your voice, rejoice and sing.

Psalm 98: 1-4

Poetry: Flickering Mind – Denise Levertov 

Lord, not you
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,

I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.

Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent.

You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow.
You the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.

How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?

Music: Prayer- From Moses in Egypt, an oratorio by Giaocchino Rossini

In the opera, Moses in Egypt, Moses leads the community in a prayer of hope before the crossing of the Red Sea.

I couldn’t find a suitable English translation, but the original Italian is below. As with many gorgeous operatic arias, I am just as happy not to translate. The music itself speaks and often the actual words pale in comparison. Hear what “speaks” particularly to you in this lovely music.

Dal tuo stellato soglio,
Signor, ti volgi a noi!
Pietà de’ figli tuoi!
Del popol tuo pietà!
Pietà de’ figli tuoi!
Del popol tuo pietà!
Se pronti al tuo potere
Sono elementi, e sfere,
Tu amico scampo addita
Al dubbio, errante piè!
Pietoso Dio! ne aìta’:
Noi non viviam, che in Te!
In questo cor dolente
deh, scendi, o Dio clemente,
e farmaco soave
tu sia di pace almen!
Il nostro cor che pena
deh! tu confronta almen!

A Reason for Hope

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 17, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Philip goes down to Samaria to preach, baptize and confirm. He found a ready audience:

With one accord, the crowds
paid attention to what Philip said.

I found that sentence remarkable. Having been a teacher and presenter for over fifty years, I was thrilled whenever I encountered such an immediately enthusiastic audience. But it wasn’t always the case. Some groups, especially larger “crowds”, had to be worked into a receptive mode. It could be quite challenging.

So what made Philip’s listeners so malleable? Acts tells us that his “signs” helped. But I wondered if there might be something else?

By Angelica Kauffman – Public Domain,

I wondered where the Samaritan woman of “Well” fame might have been during Philip’s visitation. You remember her from John 4. She was a singular audience for Jesus, and he had to work very hard to engage her good will. But once he did, the result was stunning:

Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

…. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him
because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything
I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged
him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because
of his words many more became believers.

So where was our “Well Woman” evangelist when Philip arrived? Hidden behind the later words of scripture, she deepened with Christ’s sacred memory. How had she continued to ignite the Word in the months since she first encountered Jesus?

As she listened to Philip on this post-Easter morning, how affirmed she must have felt for the complete faith she had given to a once-thirsty Jesus!


In our second reading, Peter enjoins us to live a faith like this holy woman, a witness transformed by the touch of Christ:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…

We have often waited by the well of our prayer for the voice and touch of Jesus. And we have known it and cherished it. 

Our readings today remind us to be like that Samaritan woman who now had her faith confirmed in the preaching of Philip —to share that faith, to witness it by our hope, to proclaim it by our merciful love.

(Look for a couple of lovely poems on Hope coming in a later post today. We could all use a few doses of hope, I think.  Enjoy!)

Music: Christ Our Hope in Life and Death – Keith and Kristyn Getty

The Power of the Name

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 9, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Paul and Barnabas make a final grand effort to speak to the hearts of the Jews in Antioch. The outcome is both bad news and good news.

The Jewish community resists the Word. But the Gentiles receive it with an open heart and the Gospel ignites “through the whole region”. The catechesis was so successful that resisters mounted the persecution and expulsion of the disciples from the neighborhood.

Then reminiscent of Jesus’s advice in Matthew 10:14:


So they shook the dust from their feet
in protest against them
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

acts3_6 Name_Original

In our Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples that He and the Father are one:

“If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip, like Thomas in yesterday’s Gospel, says he needs a little more to go on than that simple statement:

“Master, show us the Father,
and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus once again patiently reminds Philip and the others that all that they have experienced in Him is a revelation of the Father. He further tells them that they themselves are to be that ongoing revelation for the world:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

As Christians, we believe that we too are commissioned in the Name of Christ to be his Presence in the world. Jesus tells us that whatever we ask in his Name will be accomplished.

That doesn’t mean that the name of Jesus is a magic formula to get what we want.

Instead, within the Holy Name, we come to trust the mercy, love, and abiding accompaniment of God. Such trust allows us to see the slow working of God’s loving Will in all things – just as Jesus did through his faithful life, heartbreaking death, and ultimately triumphant Resurrection.

Let us gently repeat that beloved Name in our prayer, asking that its sweet grace enlighten and transform us.

Music: In the Name of the Lord – Gloria Gaithersburg, Phil McHugh, and Sandi Patti

Unless Someone Show Me

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

April 30, 2020

Click here for readings


Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Acts, we meet the Ethiopian eunuch who served the country’s Queen. The man was sitting in a chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Philip’s instruction results in this faith-filled man’s Baptism.unless

It’s a bible story I’ve loved since I was a novice and read the excellent book by Alexander Jones, “Unless Some Man Show Me”.  That long-ago era in my life was a time when Vatican II opened up to the faithful the power and beauty of scriptural study and prayer.

The 1960s were a wonderful time to be committing myself to a life-long spiritual journey. Over the next few years, I devoured the published documents of Vatican II which included the one on sacred scripture, the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (“Dei Verbum”).


For an excellent summary of the document, click here.

Before Vatican II, like many Catholics, I had had limited experience with scripture. Mainly, we had it read to us at Mass. We had a Bible in my childhood home, but we used it mainly to record familial births and deaths inside the front cover.

Part of the reason for this scriptural vacuum was the long-held belief that most Christians were not theologically astute enough to interpret scripture on their own. Vatican II initiated a blessed change in that perception.


In 1966, the same Alexander Jones, in the company of 27 colleagues, edited the magnificent Jerusalem Bible. My parents gave me this revered book as a gift for my Religious Profession and it has accompanied my prayer for more than a half-century. 

Reading the phrase in Acts today, “unless someone show me”, brought the whole sacred journey back to me. 

I offer this brief reminiscence to confirm how precious and important it is to build our prayer life on scripture. It is also important to educate ourselves continually by reading good commentary and spirituality. Such thinkers are like Philip in today’s passage. They are the ones who will “show” us, opening to us new understandings for our prayer.

Some of my favorite guides over the years have been:
(I’ll just list ten. There could be a whole other ten if I did this tomorrow🤗)

  1. Walter Brueggemann 
  2. Elizabeth Johnson
  3. Thelma Hall
  4. Macrina Wiederkehr 
  5. Raymond Brown
  6. Brother David Steindl-Rast 
  7. Sandra Schneiders
  8. Margaret Farley
  9. Matthew Fox
  10. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I would love for some of you
(even though you are a shy audience 😉 
to list some of your biblical and spiritual guides
in the comment section, if you feel so inclined.

Music:  Thy Word – Amy Grant