Saint John I, pope and martyr (opt. Memorial)
We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.
Sing a new song to the Lord,
his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker,
let Zion's sons exult in their king. (R./)
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people.
He crowns the poor with salvation. (R./)
Let the faithful rejoice in their glory,
shout for joy and take their rest.
Let the praise of God be on their lips:
this honour is for all his faithful. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
Three points leap out from today’s readings. 1. “The Lord takes delight in his people” (as the responsorial Psalm says). 2. Secondly, Jesus promises us that at moments of special need we can rely on the great “Helper,” the Holy Spirit. 3. Thirdly, the interaction of Paul and Lydia shows how God blesses and helps us through one another. We are meant to be inter-dependent, a community of mutual care and regard. Appreciating what others do for us, we are led by a kind of noblesse oblige to find ways of reciprocating, in return.
After sailing over to Europe, Paul began a new phase of his work. Before making this move, he had been pursued by opponents who challenged his credentials as an apostle and rejected his view of what Jesus meant. In northern Greece, he began a more peaceful phase of his ministry, beginning in the civilised city of Philippi. There Paul had the good fortune to meet a kindly and wealthy businesswoman named Lydia, who quickly accepted the faith and wanted to give to the missionaries whatever support she could.
Lydia’s hospitality was a great blessing to Paul and his team. “Come and stay with us” she said — and would not take no for an answer! Having received through Paul the gift of the faith, she offered hospitality in return. After being graced with the gospel, she graced the missionaries with a place to stay while they preached in her town.
We have all been graced in various ways in our lives so far. The proper response to being graced is to grace others in return, to share our blessings with them. We have received much, we should give much back. At the start of his gospel St John says that we have all received from the Lord’s fullness grace upon grace. In return we try to bless others as we have been blessed. Lydia illustrates this spirit by her hospitality to Paul. May the Lord show us too how to give generously from what we have received.
Paul soon fell in love with the church he founded in Philippi. His letter to them is among the warmest of his writings. He wrote: “I give thanks to my God every time I think of you, rejoicing in every prayer I utter on your behalf” He says: “God knows how much I long for each of you with the affection of Christ Jesus!” (Phil 1:3-8). His willing acceptance of the use of Lydia’s house as his base in Philippi helps to correct any notion of Paul as a misogynist, unable to relate to women. One could say that the first house-church in Europe was presided over by a woman, and that Lydia should be acknowledged as a saint.