Scripture: Lectionary 291. Acts 16:11-15. Psalm 149:1-2.3-4.5-6. John 15:26-16:4:
Some women from the city of Philippi are gathered at a place for prayer near the river bank. It is here that Paul searches for a place to pray and finds the women already there. The word for “to be at prayer” not only means the act of praying but also can indicate a small room or a synagogue near the river. The word in Greek is “proseuche” and has both of these meanings. Paul begins to speak to them about the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth and one is particularly moved by God (by the Holy Spirit) to listen and to come to desire to be a follower of Jesus. We have her name from Luke who tells us she is Lydia and comes from the famous town of Thyatira where the making of a special dye used in textiles originated. She was a dealer in this special purple dye used especially for royal vestments. Lydia wants to be baptized and then encourages Paul to baptize her whole household. Then she invites Paul and his companion (possibly Luke) to stay with them for a few days. He acquiesces and probably establishes the first house church in the west. Philippi becomes a dear city to him and his love for the Philippians is quite evident in his writing the letter to them. We see this especially in chapter one—an excellent introduction to the personal prayer of Paul.
The Philippians continue with the openness and hospitality and generosity of the woman who welcomed Paul into her home. She may be the first European to be baptized! Hurrah! For purple-dye merchants.
Openness to the Spirit and hospitality show us that this God-fearing woman who was a proselyte to Judaism is a great model for discipleship. She was desiring to be part of the Elect, the Chosen people of God and then was made aware that as a Gentile another path of relating to God was opened to her by Paul and maybe Luke. Luke is included because at this point in the Acts of the Apostles we are in the “we sayings” of this ideal imaging of the Church.
To be a part of the Chosen People of God is essential to God’s plan for humankind. Through them the promises have been passed on to the Gentiles through Jesus and then through the apostles who build the first Christian communities. In the apostles we have the entire Torah passed on to the Christian followers with the words of Jesus attesting to them as well. Lydia, undoubtedly, becomes an apostle to her own family and then continues to build the church in Phillipi. Amen. Alleluia.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.