Daily Homily: Whoever Believes Has Eternal Life

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

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Acts 8:26-40

Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
John 6:44-51

Just as the Ethiopian eunuch struggles to understand the meaning of the suffering servant in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, so also the crowds struggle to understand the true meaning of the multiplication of the loaves. Philip will enlighten the eunuch about Jesus Christ and his death on the Cross; Jesus will enlighten the crowds about who he is and what his mission is. Philip introduces the eunuch into divine life through the Sacrament of Baptism; Jesus begins to reveal to the crowds the Sacrament of the Eucharist, through which we receive eternal life.

In the first reading, Philip finds the eunuch in his chariot reading aloud a passage from Isaiah. It seems that the eunuch had come to believe in the one God whom the Jews worshiped. However, as a eunuch, «he was barred from becoming a full member of God’s people and entering the inner courts of the temple (Deut 23:2)» (Kurz, Acts of the Apostles, Baker, 146). Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises that in the age of the Messiah, foreigners, even eunuchs, will be welcomed into the temple as members of God’s people: «To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me, and who hold fast to my covenant, I give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name» (see Isaiah 56:3-7).

Philip is docile and obedient to the action of the Holy Spirit. He hears the Spirit’s voice telling him: «Go and join up with that chariot». God’s wants the Gospel to be spread to all nations and he chooses Philip to be a part of that mission. Philip, one of the seven deacons of the early Church, eventually settles in Caesarea and is known as «the evangelist» (Acts 21:8).

As an evangelist, Philip helps the eunuch understand one of Isaiah’s four passages on the Suffering Servant of the Lord. This servant was called by God and commissioned by God to suffer in silence – like a sheep led to the slaughter – for the sins of the people. This prophesy is realized perfectly in the passion of Jesus Christ. The eunuch was taught many other things that day about Jesus Christ and his Church and Baptism was among these things. The eunuch, on seeing water beside the road, asks Philip: «What is to prevent my being baptized?» The answer is that nothing does. As W. Kurz comments: «Until then, even if he desired to convert to Judaism, he was barred from full membership in God’s people (Deut 23:2). Now he sees there is no longer anything to hinder him! His faith in Jesus was enough for him to be incorporated into the people of God through baptism» (Acts of the Apostles, Baker, 148). Through his baptism, the eunuch becomes an adopted son of God, a member of Christ’s mystical body and a temple of the Holy Spirit. On coming out of the waters, he will go and spread the Gospel in his native land. Through his faith in Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch receives eternal life, and now he will bring others to enjoy that same life.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus urges the crowds to believe in him. Those who believe in Christ, receive him within themselves, for he dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). Our minds are enlightened by faith; our hearts are inflamed by love.

Jesus proclaims that although we have not seen God the Father, he, as the eternal Son of God, has seen the Father. He teaches us everything the Father has taught him. He reveals to us what the Father wishes to be revealed for our salvation. He does the works of his Father so that we might believe and, by believing receive eternal life. Jesus’ communion with the Father is so deep that Jesus can say to Philip the Apostle: «He who has seen me has seen the Father» (John 14:9). Here on earth, we encounter Jesus in the Word of God, like the Ethiopian eunuch, and in the Sacrament of he Eucharist, the Bread of Life. The Word and the Eucharist nourish us, purify us, and strengthen us on our journey to heaven.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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