April 14th, 2005
Robert P. Heaney
John A. Creighton University Chair
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have always felt that the eunuch of the court of Queen Candace was
speaking for me. “How can I [understand] unless someone guides
Scripture is God’s revelation to us – an unfolding of
what God is like and how God relates to the world. But that revelation
is expressed in human ways – through the mouths and minds
of individuals with world views and value systems and vocabularies
often very different from our own. The eunuch whom Philip instructs
is aware of his unfamiliarity with the background and vision of
Isaiah and is puzzled about what the prophet meant.
Sometimes we are tempted to focus mainly on what the words seem
to say to us – with what experiences from our personal pasts
the words may evoke. Ultimately, all scripture reflection and meditation
must come down to “What does this mean for me?” But
it has to start, not with me, but with Jesus, or Paul, or Moses.
What did the words mean to them? What was the human transaction
scripture captured in their words? Why did the framers of the Canon
think this passage was important enough to include? How has the
Church over the centuries understood this passage? Only then can
we understand the meaning of a particular passage for us. To skip
these first steps is to risk creating our own religion.
But how are we to know these things – unless someone shows
us? The eunuch speaks for all of us as he asks Philip his question.
The eunuch had Philip. What are we to do?
First: It is the job of the homilist in every liturgy in which the
Word is proclaimed to break open its meaning for us. Second: It
is the responsibility of every Christian to study lifelong, to take
advantage of the treasure trove of Christian biblical scholarship
that has developed over the past 60-plus years. Parish Bible study
groups are a good way to start (but it is important that they be
led by individuals who are, themselves, appropriately instructed).
Finally, there is always the library and the bookstore. A list of
some of the resources that I find particularly helpful can be accessed
by clicking on this link.
to the writer of this reflection.
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