Our first reading from Acts is, among other things, a lesson in humility for ministers. After an angel tells him to travel on a certain road, and then the Spirit tells him to catch up to a chariot on that road, Philip proceeds to explain Isaiah 53 to an Ethiopian eunuch, and later on baptizes him. Right after this, the Spirit snatches Philip away. But the Ethiopian doesn’t seem to be fazed at all by this. He continues on his way, “rejoicing.” There isn’t even a Lone Ranger-type ending where someone asks, “Who was that masked man?”
What happens here, of course, is not about diminishing Philip, but to highlight what’s really important – The Good News has spread beyond Judah or Samaria! The Ethiopian continues his life with joy because he has received something the world cannot give. He has received the news that there is Someone who loves him enough to sacrifice Himself for him! He has received new life in Christ!
This is the Good News that we find Jesus trying to tell the people in our Gospel reading. He is trying to tell them that God has again sent down bread from heaven in order to feed His people. But this bread is not about feeding the body as it is about feeding the soul. The love of God in Jesus Christ is the only thing that can fill that longing in our hearts that no amount of money or possessions or power or even good health can satisfy. It is what leads us to eternal life!
This “bread of life” that we have been given is to be shared with others. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit for sharing it. The important thing is that it is shared. We know the world is reeling from hatred and fear. We know that so many people in the world are desperate to have their physical needs met. But they also need to know that they are loved, no matter their origin or present situation. Jesus gave Himself “for the life of the world.” May we share that gift of life with others.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.