The Ethiopian eunuch we meet in today's first reading is really a strange fellow. He has a very high position in his queen's government (in charge of the entire treasury - wow), but he doesn't seem content with that. He's searching for something more, something to satisfy a deep longing within him, something that he can only find outside his own culture.
So he goes to Jerusalem to worship. This is very odd behavior for an Ethiopian court official. We would expect him to worship the gods of his own land. He doesn't even stop at worshiping in Jerusalem; he also studies the Jewish Scriptures. We discover him deep in the prophet Isaiah as he returns home from his worship. He is clearly looking for truth.
But he doesn't know how to find it. When Philip approaches the eunuch, the latter freely admits that he doesn't understanding what he's reading. “How can I,” he asks, “unless someone instructs me?” The eunuch doesn't realize it immediately, but he has just met his instructor. He's got questions, and Philip has answers.
Philip proceeds to explain the Isaiah passage to the eunuch, and then he keeps right on going, telling the seeker all about Jesus. The message touches the eunuch's mind, heart, and soul. Here at last is what he has been trying to find for so long. Here at last is the truth. The eunuch knows exactly what he must do. He asks Philip for baptism, and Philip immediately administers the sacrament and then promptly disappears.
The startled but thrilled eunuch continues his journey home, rejoicing in his new faith. This strange fellow has just become the first Christian in Ethiopia.
Friday – Get Up and Go
Get up and go. Jesus' command is clear. Paul must not remain lying on the ground in shock. He has a job to do, and he must get up and go into the city to prepare for it. He knows the truth now. He has encountered the risen Jesus directly. Now it's time to move along.
Get up and go. Again, Jesus' command is clear. Ananias must go to Paul and instruct him in the Christian faith. Ananias is shocked. After all, Paul has been persecuting Christians right and left. How could he have changed so quickly? But Jesus doesn't allow protests. Paul has a mission, and Ananias is the one who will help him prepare for it. Now it's time to move along.
Jesus tells both Paul and Ananias to get up and go. Is He saying the same to each of us?
Saturday – Many Left
Jesus doesn't stop His disciples from leaving. Pay close attention to that. They can't accept His difficult words about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but He doesn't call them back and tell them that He didn't really mean it, that He was just speaking symbolically, that they shouldn't take Him literally.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus means everything He says. Literally. But He isn't going to force people to stay, and He isn't going to explain further just then. He is looking for faith and trust from His disciples. He wants them to accept a mystery.
So many leave. But some don't. They recognize, like Simon Peter, that Jesus has “words of eternal life.” They believe that He is the Holy One of God. So they trust Him, even when they don't understand, even when His words seem outrageous. They stay, and they humbly enter into the mystery that would one day soon enter into them when they celebrate the Eucharist and truly receive Jesus' Body and Blood into their bodies, hearts, and souls.