Deuteronomy 23:1 tells us that a man who is emasculated by crushing or cutting may not enter the assembly of God. Not only was this man not a Jew by birth, but he could never be a Jew. There was no way for him to be circumcised, no way for him ever to be made clean.
After revealing to him who Jesus is, the eunuch asks a question. One we take for granted today. "What is to prevent me from being baptized?" Nothing. Everyone has the ability to become a member of the body of Christ. Baptism is available to the whole and the broken. The healthy and the lame. The eunuch and the infirm. The barrier that once separated God from the rest of the world had been rent in two. Now it's possible for the man who wasn't able to even enter the Temple to come face to face with his creator. It all began though with something important. When Phillip asked him if he understood what he was reading, the Eunuch replied: "How can I, unless someone guides me?" This man needed someone to show him the way. He needed God to help him find his way. God sent Phillip.
The other day I was walking out of the Dollar Store when I saw a street preacher. He was talking to another gentleman about God and I stopped at my car and listened. I agreed with a lot of what he was saying. Some of it though was a little off. The man had this bible that was tattered and worn. That's something my grandfather used to say, "You can tell who a man is by the way his bible looks." I even heard a Priest say one time that when he wanted to do a funeral and didn't know the person, he'd ask to see their bible. This man obviously loved God. The thing is he had gone off on his own to interpret things. Some of what he said I could easily have pointed him in the right direction. After about 20 minutes of listening though I had to get in the car and leave.
Another thing I realized is that years ago I wouldn't have been patient. I would have interrupted their obviously enjoyable conversation and tried to wrestle with this guy intellectually. I would have tried to force him to see it my way. It would have been an enjoyable thing for me. I loved to argue. Now, I love Jesus. I didn't want to correct him for my own benefit or my own enjoyment. I just wanted to show him the real Person. The same way I'd correct someone if they said something about my mom that just wasn't true. I love her too much to let them talk about her that way. The same way I correct people if they talk about the Church and they're wrong about her. God has given her authority to teach and he sends us out into the world to help. Not because he can't do it himself, but because there are thousands of people out there who think they are untouchable. People who think they are cut off from God's love. That they can't enter His Temple.
That's what evangelization is about. It's going out, guided by the Holy Spirit through the Church, and reaching out to those who do not know Jesus. It's offering to help someone read the book that is sometimes difficult to understand. It's being the guide on the road to Emmaus and pointing to all the things that Scripture says about Him. It's getting up from where we are and going to a deserted, angry environment where the wind and the sun chafe in order to listen to God's prompting. It's saying to that one child who never goes to church, every Sunday, "We are going to Mass if you want to go." It's holding someone's hand while they mourn and grieve. It's an invitation. Only God can call someone's heart, but sometimes he does that through you and I. That's one thing we have to give to those street preachers... they aren't ashamed to go out and talk about Jesus. We can learn a lot from that. All the strength we need is right here in the Eucharist. That's what the Sacraments empower us to do.
Sometimes you and I are the only Bible someone gets to read. Like Phillip, God is sending us out into the world that is thirsty for Christ's presence. What kind of book are they reading when they meet you?
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."
A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Third Week of Easter: May 4th, 2017