Daily Reflection
April 14th, 2005

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Chair
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Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
John 6:44-51

I have always felt that the eunuch of the court of Queen Candace was speaking for me. “How can I [understand] unless someone guides me?”

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.

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