Day 329: The Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8:1-4 Stephen’s death set off widespread antagonism and violence toward Christians, with Saul among the key perpetrators. Many Christians fled Jerusalem and spread throughout Judea and Samaria. The dispersion had an unintended effect, however, of hastening the expansion and growth of the Christian community through the witness of these refugees and the introduction of the Gospel to the Gentiles. It also fulfilled our Lord’s words that the faith be taken from Judea to Samaria. As Tertullian observed, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians” (Apol., 50, 13: PL 1, 603). (CCC 852)

Ch 8:1 Except the apostles: The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, possibly to minister to the Christians remaining there and to govern the Church from the Holy City. (CCC 1575)

Ch 8:5-8 According to the plan of Christ, the Gospel was now taken beyond Judea to Samaria.

Philip: This Philip is the deacon rather than the Apostle. He, like Stephen, performed mighty works of healing. (CCC 1086)

Ch 8:9-25 There is a danger in naively confusing seemingly miraculous works with true religion. Magic and sorcery deceive through sleight-of-hand or dark powers, whereas true miracles are works of God. Simon was one such magician who was amazed by the works of the Apostles and was baptized, but he never quite made the distinction. He lacked true faith: He sought not union with Christ but the power to work miracles like the Apostles. For reasons of vanity and ambition, he sought these powers, forgetting that miracles are worked to strengthen faith and are motives of credibility for faith. To his credit, he repented of his sin. The buying or selling of spiritual things or of Church offices is called simony, after Simon Magus. Stipends for Sacraments or contributions toward the expenses involved in a liturgy, however, are not considered simony because the spiritual benefit is not contingent upon the monetary gift. (CCC 2121-2122)

Ch 8:14-19 The Spirit had not yet fallen: The practice of Baptism and the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit correspond to the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation, respectively. Both, along with the Eucharist, are essential rites of initiation into the Church but sacramentally distinct. (CCC 699, 1288, 1315-1321, 2777)

Ch 8:26-40 Eunuch: Such a castrated male often held high governmental offices; he apparently made pilgrimages to Jerusalem but, as a eunuch, could neither enter the Temple nor become part of the Jewish community (cf. Dt 23:1). There exist no such obstacles to Baptism in the New Covenant. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch reveals not only the power of Scripture but also the need for the teaching authority of the Church to interpret it. (CCC 334)

Ch 8:32-35 This passage is from the Song of the Suffering Servant (cf. Is 53:7-8), a messianic prophecy that applies directly to Christ. The Suffering Servant, a rejected Messiah, sacrifices his own life to atone for the sins of all people. (CCC 601)

Ch 8:36 Water is an essential sign of Baptism. Sacraments effect what they signify, which is, in the case of baptism, the cleansing of all sin. By active participation in the rites, the faithful can more fully appropriate the graces conferred in the Sacraments. (CCC 1234)

Ch 8:36 Other ancient authorities add verse 37: “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” The belief that Jesus is the Son of God is the basis of the Christian identity.

(CCC 454)

Romans 13:1-7 Christian faith and good citizenship go hand in hand and should never be opposed to one another. The Church recognizes that civil authority is necessary to provide order in a community, protect the rights of all, and to ensure the common good. As sharers in this responsibility, Christians are morally obligated to live in obedience to the civil law as long as it is just, i.e., does not transgress the moral law or offend human dignity. (CCC 1897-1900, 1918-1927, 2238, 2240)

Ch 13:4 Bear the sword: Paul here refers to the death penalty, which for citizens of Rome at that time was by decapitation, and implicitly acknowledged its use for criminal acts. The Church today acknowledges the licit use of capital punishment under very extraordinary and restricted circumstances when there are no other mans available to protect society from the perpetrator. Today, the death penalty virtually does not need to be applied in industrialized nations, where criminal justice systems can efficiently keep dangerous criminals securely imprisoned. (CCC 2266-2267)

Ch 13:6-7 The obligation to pay taxes and to respect the civil government is mitigated only when it conflicts with our duty to God and to keeping the moral law. (CCC 2240)

Ch 13:8-14 The moral law must be kept, but we should do so out of love for God and neighbor rather than merely out of fear or obligation. To love our neighbor as ourselves includes the whole body of natural law. Christ will judge us at the end of time on our deeds, especially acts of charity. Paul used the cycles of darkness and daylight as a metaphor for the evils of the present age and the dawning of eternal life. (CCC 1227, 1425)

Ch 13:14 Put on the Lord Jesus Christ: This image stresses the intimate union we must have with Christ that is likened to putting on a garment. (CCC 1227, 1425)

Ch 14:1-12 Matters of personal preference that are not sinful should not disrupt the Christian community. All should live to serve Christ and to die for Christ. The New Commandment of Love requires no less than mutual respect and understanding among the faithful. God will be the ultimate judge of our actions. (CCC 1971)

Ch 14:1-4 Paul defended the freedom of those who, because of their preference for abstaining from meat and observing some Jewish devotional and legal practices, are said to be “weak in faith.” Most likely these were Jewish converts to Christianity. Dietary choice is a matter of legitimate diversity and must not become a divisive issue within the community. (CCC 582)

Ch 14:5-6 Some Jewish Christians still observed the Sabbath, which was a holy day and day of rest under the Old Law. They also kept Sunday as the Christian day of worship since it was the day of the Resurrection and, therefore, the Lord’s Day. Paul advised the Gentile Christians not to complain about the Jewish Christians since their Sabbath worship was still done to honor God and, therefore, not a detraction from the Sunday observance. (CCC 348, 2171, 2175, 2190)

Ch 14:7 Because the Christian community is spiritually united to each other through the Communion of Saints, every actual sin, therefore, damages this unity and at the same time, every good deed builds and strengthens the Communion of Saints. (CCC 953, 1475)

Ch 14:9 In his divinity, Christ transcends time and space. Having risen from the dead, he is the Lord of all creation and all human history, and, in a special way, he meant to rule the human heart, giving full meaning to human life. (CCC 668)

Ch 14:11 God deserves our praise and adoration simply because he is God, even apart from any consideration of his mighty works. (CCC 2649)

Ch 14:13-23 Paul warned about the danger of causing scandal to others, using the example of eating foods that for some was still considered to be unclean. Even though a deed may be objectively innocent and acceptable, we may give scandal if another person mistakenly thinks this same action is sinful. We must not give even the appearance of evil or sin for the sake of those who might be led into sin or whose faith may be weakened. Heaven is compared to a banquet of peace and joy rather than merely an enjoyable meal. 

Stumbling block: the object of scandal

For whom Christ died: Redemption is applied equally to all; both Jewish and Gentile Christians should offer each other fraternal support. (CCC 1789, 2770, 2819)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Key Event 67: Witness in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:4-13:1)

As a result of Stephen's martyrdom, the Church in Jerusalem in scattered (Acts 8:1).  Rather than being discouraged, the Christians take advantage of their situation to bring the gospel to the regions of Judea and Samaria and even Galilee and Syria.  It is during this time, in the city of Antioch, that the believers are first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we thank you and give you praise. Thank you for being with us today. Thank you for feeding us with your Word, with your Spirit. Thank you for being present to us and shaping our hearts and lighting them on fire. Help us to love you and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Help us to love each other well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”