"Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word"

"Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing."
(Acts 8:4-6)
After the martyrdom of the Church's first great deacon-saint, Stephen Proto-martyr, today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles has the second great deacon-saint, St. Phillip the Deacon, going out to preach to the Samaritans.

There are, I think, two important things in this short passage to meditate on.

The first: even though the disciples were scattered due to the dangers on Jerusalem, they didn't give up on spreading the Gospel. They didn't let the circumstances dissuade them from their mission.

Today, we are scattered due to a different danger. The global COVID-19 pandemic is still shuttering our churches...and there have been various responses to this: some helpful, others not.

There have been misguided or arrogant pastors that have defied law, health and the good sense that God gave them to endanger their parishioners and their communities by holding Church services anyway. What does that prove? Faith? I don't think so...if our goal is to touch the hearts and minds of people who haven't internalized the message of the Gospel, then putting their lives in jeopardy unnecessarily seems like the wrong approach.

On the other side, though, there have been many in the church who have redoubled their efforts to reach out, using social media and electronic communications far more than the ever have to spread the joy of the Gospel.

Admittedly, we should have been doing it all along. But sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. I hope we keep it up.

The second important thing to keep in mind: St. Phillip goes not to the Jews, but to the Samaritans. Recall that the Samaritans were considered heretics and unbelievers by the prevailing Jewish culture. Yet there it Phillip, preaching the Lord in their midst.

Some Christians, even some Catholic Christians, have chosen to live their intellectual lives in little encampments of apparent purity and orthodoxy. They are in a personal battle with the world, fearing that contact with 'those people' will taint the purity of their faith.

This is not Christianity.

Christian faith is about trusting in the beauty and power of the Gospel...in fact, trusting it so much that the world doesn't frighten us anymore. St. Phillip doesn't need to condemn the Samaritans or anyone else. He trusts that the power of truth and love will be enough.

Do we trust that, too? Or are we still afraid?

The scriptures encourage us to lay down our fear. To engage with everyone--Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist--as a brother or sister without condemnation or judgement...or even a desire to show them that we are 'right' and they are 'wrong'.

The Gospel is far more powerful than that.  If we truly believe in it, then we should believe that in living it out authentically we will touch people's minds and hearts...that we will help them to find better and more fulfilling spiritual lives.

We won't talk them into it, we'll love them into it.

St. Phillip the Deacon, pray for us!

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