“The soul is regenerated in the sacred waters of baptism and thus becomes God's child.“ ~ St. Maximilian Kolbe
In today’s 1st Reading (Acts 16:11-15) we are introduced to Lydia, a Gentile woman and purveyor of purple cloth, who unpon encountering Paul and Barnabas in Philippi, became a believer in the fullness and richness of the salvific Gospel message. Lydia’s response in this passage reinforces three very vital truths of our Christian faith.
First of all, we are reminded that the cultivation of a vibrant faith life is a journey, filled with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, disjointed moments and times of blissful lucidity. Perseverance, perspective and a reliance on Jesus to lead the way on his schedule is the only path. Never do we see the full picture; that’s a privilege belonging only to god the Father and his Son. Faith in his goodness, faith in his mercy, and faith in his love is what we are called to show.
Secondly, we must focus on our response to the grace-filled moments that present themselves to us even during what would appear to be the most nondescript, uneventful and pedestrian of days. In Lydia’s case we see a woman who opened her heart to Paul’s message. In a world where paranoia and pessimism run rampant, this in and of itself is a leap of faith. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the unknown, when we step away from that which is familiar and comfortable, when we strive for the possession of true spiritual clarity, wisdom, discernment and understanding, this is when we grow. It opens the door to the potentially transformative moments in our lives.
Speaking of transformative, the third thing we learn from Lydia is that we can be transformed by God’s grace. In her case she and her family were baptized and thus shown the way to eternal life through Jesus. Through her humble invitation to Paul and Barnabas, she offered rest and accommodation to these two tireless prophets. In doing so, she did her part in service to their evangelization efforts during the infancy of our Church. Hospitality is the virtue of every genuine Christian. “It has been, and continues to be, our responsibility to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality,” said Conrad Hilton, the man who took this simple premise and parlayed it into the multi-billion dollar empire known as Hilton Hotel and Resorts Inc. Hospitality for the every day man and woman is an opportunity to show the world that we love and we care. Through her hospitality, Lydia displays the immediate bond that a new believer has with other believers in Christ. Those of you who have experienced this divine kinship know precisely what I mean.
Lydia’s conversion marks the start of a new era in Christianity. The Gospel had not gone further west than Asia Minor prior to her encounter with Paul and Barnabas. in fact Biblical Historians believe that Paul’s original intention was to stay in Asia, but God changed his plans. The Lord sent Paul a vision calling him westward across the Aegean Sea and into Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Lydia, although a native of Asia Minor, is the first person recorded to have been evangelized and subsequently saved in Europe.
The story of Lydia in the Bible is a great example of God’s extraordinary providence and love for those who believe in him or desire to do so. Lydia was a worshiper of God, but much like Cornelius in yesterday‘s reading from Acts (10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), she had not yet heard the Gospel. God rerouted Paul whole insuring that Lydia would be in the right place at the right time to encounter him. When Lydia heard the Gospel, God opened her heart so that she received it.
God looks to act in the very same way with each and every one of us by way of the workings of the Holy Spirit https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Foreshadowing-the-Divine-Interpreter if but only we would allow our hearts to be opened. Saint Thalassios the Lybian once said “According to the degree to which the intellect is stripped of the passions, the Holy Spirit initiates the intellect into the mysteries of the age to be.” May we partake of this task so that we too can encounter Jesus fully in our lives.
“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into the hearts of all believers. Enlighten the dark corners of our neglected dwellings and scatter there thy eternally divine beams” ~ Amen