God Is Active Today | Season of Joy

Season of Joy

Today's Season of Joy reflection on Acts 8:26-40 is by Fr. Michael Rossman, SJ.

Fr. Michael is a Jesuit priest currently working on a doctorate at the Gregorian University in Rome. He is a native of Iowa and a graduate of Notre Dame, Loyola Chicago, and Boston College. He shares a video each week at amdg.substack.com.

God Is Active Today

from Acts 8:26-40

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.

To read the full scripture passage, please visit: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/050522.cfm

Recently, a student at a Catholic university studying abroad in Rome went on a tour of the Vatican with his classmates. After visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, the student turned to his professor and asked, “Professor, who’s Peter?”

Now, for many of us, such a question is horrifying. How can someone, let alone a student at a Catholic university living in Rome, not know who St. Peter is, the rock upon whom Christ built his church?

But such a question is not particularly uncommon today. I have heard from both university and high school theology teachers that they cannot assume anything about their students’ knowledge – or lack thereof. In a previous era, even if a student was not devout, he would understand if his teacher made reference to Moses, or the Prodigal Son, or the Twelve Apostles. That’s not necessarily the case today.

Now, these same teachers also talk about the goodness that they see in their students. Very few of them are militant atheists. Most are quite open to spirituality, but many do not know much when it comes to the Christian tradition.

In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we encounter a person clearly interested in spirituality but one who was ignorant of Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship and was reading the prophet Isaiah on his own, but when Philip asks him whether he understands, the eunuch replies, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”

How can I, unless someone instructs me?

As a priest, many people have shared with me their great sadness that their children or grandchildren do not go to church. I share that sadness. Whenever I read about another study that highlights the increasing religious disaffiliation in America, these are not just statistics to me. I think about so many people in my life I care about who don’t seem to care much about Christ or his Church.

So, what do we do?

This reading from Acts gives us some clues. First, God is working. The Spirit says to Philip to join the chariot where the Ethiopian eunuch is.

But Philip also responds. He runs to the chariot. He proclaims Jesus to the eunuch. He orders the chariot to stop, and he baptizes him.

And in our world todayGod continues to labor. Even if we do not always see it, God is active.

But God also gives us the opportunity to make a contribution. According to the well-known prayer of St. Teresa of Avila, Christ has no body now but yours. No hands but yours. We are the ones invited to make tangible the love of God through our lives. We are the ones who can share the Christian story with the many who know so little of it.

It’s not about equipping people to excel in a Catholic trivia game. It’s about sharing our own experience of being touched by Christ and facilitating others’ encounter with Jesus Christ.

We can lament secularization and the closure of Catholic parishes and schools. But we can also do our part. We can make a contribution. We can be like Philip in our families and workplaces and communities.

And here’s the thing? Not only do we make the lives of others better by sharing Jesus with them, by sharing community, faith, and love with them…. But our lives become better, too!

As Pope Francis says, “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.”

We read that after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip went about proclaiming the good news.

This is good news.

Of course, it pains us when others do not see it as such.

There are many things out of our control. But we can make our contribution.

In a world where many people do not even know who Sts. Peter and Philip are, we are called to follow in their footsteps today in sharing Jesus Christ.

And when we share him, we encounter him anew.

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