Our¬†reading (Acts 8:26-40) introduces us to another¬†believer whose encounter with the Risen Lord empowered him to bear witness to the Gospel with amazing results. His name is Phillip. He was so in tune with the Holy Spirit that angels directed on whom to speak to - and the Spirit inspired and filled the message. The story of the Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch reveals the missionary pattern which¬†the Acts of the Apostles sets forth. It is offered not only for inspiration, but for imitation. After all, the Acts continue. Same Lord. Same Spirit. Same Message. Same Mission.¬†
Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Our readings during the Easter season tell¬†of the courageous living faith of the first followers of the Risen Savior. These ordinary folks were transformed because they were¬†witnesses to the Resurrection. Over the past few days we heard of the courageous witness of Stephen, the first deacon and martyr of the Church. He became so configured to the Lord that he¬† followed the very pattern of His death, forgiving the people who took his life. His¬†living faith enabled him to see reality as it really is - the heavens opened and he saw the Son of man, standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:51- 8:1) That is reality!
One of those consenting to his martyrdom was a persecutor of the early Church named Saul. He became a witness of the Resurrection when Jesus spoke to him as he crossed a desert. As a result of his¬†encounter with the Risen Lord he¬†spent his life continuing the redemptive mission of the Lord, known as Paul. Stephens faithful witness transformed lives then - and continues to transform lives. I serve at a parish named after him. Every time I walk into the Church I see a representation of him holding the stones and the Book of the Gospels.
Today, our¬†reading (Acts 8:26-40) introduces us to another¬†believer whose encounter with the Risen Lord empowered him to bear witness to the Gospel with amazing results. His name is Phillip. He was so in tune with the Holy Spirit that angels directed on whom to speak to - and the Spirit inspired and filled the message. The story of the Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch reveals the missionary pattern which¬†the Acts of the Apostles sets forth. It is offered not only for inspiration, but for imitation. After all, the Acts continue. Same Lord. Same Spirit. Same Message. Same Mission.¬†
In his morning homily on Wednesday, Pope Francis reflected on these accounts from the Book of Acts. He warned us all that we¬†must not become a 'slumbering church.' He bluntly affirmed that 'Whoever knows Jesus has the strength and the courage to proclaim him.¬† And whoever has received baptism has the strength to walk, to go forward, to evangelize.'
He continued, 'when we do this the Church becomes a mother who generates children capable of bring Christ to the world.' At the end of his homily he said 'Let us ask the Lord for the grace to become baptized persons who are brave and sure that the Holy Spirit who is in us, received at baptism, always moves us to proclaim Jesus Christ with our life, our testimony and even with¬† our words.'
Todays account in our first reading is meant to inspire us to realize that we are also witnesses of the Resurrection and we can and should¬†live differently. In the words of the great western Bishop of Hippo, St Augustine, that "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song".¬† Death was dealt a fatal blow at the wounded but glorified hands of the Warrior of love. Death could not contain the One who poured Himself out in Love.
The light of heaven flooded that dark cave and continues to fill the world with hope. The debt was paid, the last enemy death was defeated, hell was conquered, the captives are liberated, and the logic of love has triumphed! Jesus Christ is Alive and all those who stand at the Altar of the Cross, believing in His promise, shall live forever in Him. We are now called to be witnesses to the Resurrection.
There is a glorified Resurrected Savior at the right hand of the Father, holding the place He has prepared for each of us. His wounds are glorified, beautiful, streaming the light of grace upon an earth being reborn, revealing the depth of His love and offering each of us the Hope that springs eternal. Through taking on our humanity, He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves. He 'who knew no sin' walked in the perfect obedience of Love and bridged the gap between the Father and the sons and daughters who had rejected His invitation to communion. Jesus did so by offering His own Body on the altar of that Cross, the new Adam said yes to God on the second tree of the Cross.
Through His passion, death, and Resurrection, He has welcomed us into the very inner life of the Trinity, beginning now. In Him we make our home in God. He invites us to live differently and shows us the path to a fullness of life now and eternal glory in the new world to come. He has opened eternity to those once bound by the chains of time. He has clothed in glorious freedom those once wrapped in the grave clothes of death. He has given purpose to the sheep who had wandered aimlessly in empty self pursuits.
The whole world, created through Him, is now being re-created in Him. We can see our lives differently as we open ourselves to His Spirit. The Spirit can replace our finite vision, giving us eyes with eternal perspective. Our feet can be shod with the hope of the Good News and carry us, like Phillip, to places we would never have expected. His redemptive mission continues through us. We are called into a world waiting to be born anew. He walks through time in His Body on earth, His church, and through us invites all men and women to follow Him.
As we choose to become witnesses to the Resurrection we find the purpose of eternity revealed in the temporal realities of our every today. The stuff of our mundane daily lives becomes the ingredients of our own sanctification; the materials out of which the new creation is fashioned anew around us, and within us. The materials have not changed; we have, because He lives now in us and we live in Him. There is nothing we now face alone, no tomorrow that is not redeemed and made new in the timeless One, who, out of endless, eternal, unquenchable love, came into time to redeem and transform it.
Time unfolds into eternity in Him who has entered time and transformed it by His life, death and Resurrection. That Glorious Day, understood by the Church as the first day of the new creation, that Day that the early Christians called the Eighth Day; is now upon us. It is also the portal to eternity. He is the firstborn, the first-fruits of a new creation and is making all things new now, within us and around us.He is living His life through us, for others.
The ground from which God formed the first Adam, the ground upon which Jeus the Incarnate Word walked and into which they placed His sacred, lifeless Body, opened wide for the New Adam; it could not contain Him. He Rose victorious from the dead! 'Be not afraid' He cries out causing the stones to burst forth in our own lives. 'Be gone"'He commands as he shines the light that dispels all the darkness! 'Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. (Hebrews 2:14-15)'.
Through sin, death came into the world. By the Sinless One it is vanquished. No longer an enemy, death is meant to be a friend, an ally, to those who live their lives in the One who has been raised from the dead. No longer an end, it becomes a new beginning for all who hide their lives in His wounded side and live their lives forever joined to Him. Nothing can separate us from that Love incarnated in the Crucified, Risen Son of the True and Living God.
We can¬† choose daily to live in the encounter with the Risen Jesus and hear the Lord call our name. We can begin to live as though we actually believe that He holds the future - our future and the future of this whole world that He still loves- in those wounded, glorified hands. The Resurrection is a lens through which we can view everything, even suffering and loss. When we do, we discover they have beauty and irreplaceable value - redemptive, life transforming value- when we choose to follow the One who has been raised.
The Acts of the Apostles continues through you and me. Same Lord, Same Spirit, Same Message. Same Mission.
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