How to understand

Do you understand what you are reading?
How can I, unless someone shows me the way?
Acts 8: 30-31

 In the Acts of the Apostles, the followers of Jesus were sometimes called those who followed the Way.

Living the faith is walking the Way, following in the footsteps of the Lord.

In today’s reading from Acts 8: 26-40, the deacon Philip is sent by an angel to illumine the Ethiopian eunuch. This foreigner had come to Jerusalem to pray and as he was returning home he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip comes alongside his chariot and, hearing what he is reading, asks him if he understands?

There are some aspects of this encounter that might surprise us. Why would a rich Ethiopian court official listen to a humble Jew? Why would a Jew talk with a foreigner – and a eunuch? The encounter seems odd.

But the response of the Ethiopian is even stranger.

He does not presume that he knows what he’s reading. He admits his questions. He is open to a guide.

The New American Bible has the Ethiopian remark “How can I know unless someone instructs me?”

Other translations translate this as “How can I know unless someone guides me?”

But the Greek word used ὁδηγήσει can be translated as guide, but its root is ὁδός, the way – the very same word used to indicate the Way.

“How can I know unless someone shows me the way?”

So, how can we understand scripture unless we walk the way with someone, unless we are on the road, in community?

It’s not a question of merely understanding words and texts; it’s understanding a way of life, the way we walk with Christ.

I think that’s part of the charism of Pope Francis. He not only teaches us but he also walks the way, he shows us how to respond in love to the needy, how to approach God in prayer, even how to approach the sacrament of reconciliation.

So, let us open our hearts when we read the scriptures to see how God is leading us, by looking at how others are walking the Gospel in their lives.



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