After hearing the first reading, some of us will think, “Yes, Philip has the answer—just do it.” Others may squirm uncomfortably and say, “I’m not one to take leaps of faith.” And that’s no surprise, because God has made us all different. You might have childhood memories of hesitating nervously at the edge of a swimming pool, or you might have been one of those children dive-bombing in. And so you may experience different responses to Pope Francis’ encouragement to be an evangelist: excitement, trepidation, or a mix of the two. But at the root of our common call to preach the Gospel there are some things worth remembering.
The first thing is that God wants everyone. Two thousand years ago, Ethiopians were the embodiment of different. Not just their skin colour, but their culture and their distance from Jerusalem led Jews to view them with suspicion. But the Holy Spirit turned that thinking on its head by calling an Ethiopian to the Church right from the beginning.
Second, God wants the Gospel to be preached and spread. The Holy Spirit directed Philip to a man heading home to Ethiopia not only so that this man would experience the love of God but also so that he could go on to become an evangelist and preach the Gospel in his home country.
Third, God’s timing is impeccable. Now this isn’t always as clear to us as it is in today’s first reading; but God sends us where we need to be, at the time we need to be there, for the purposes of his Kingdom. Philip saw an opportunity, and he took it.
This third truth is vital, because without it, the first two can lead to either overzealous evangelization, or extreme guilt for not measuring up. In spite of the ups and downs in our own attempts at evangelisation, we should remember that God will open the door at just the right moment. At the end of the day, it’s not down to us, but the Holy Spirit working through us. We just need to keep our eyes and ears open and wait for the right opportunity.