READINGS: ACTS 16:11-15; JN 15:26—16:4A
In our first reading today, the Apostle continues his missionary journey now into Europe. This was a change of plans for St Paul, because he was originally headed to Asia, but “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow” him. Jesus gave him a dream, and it was decided that God had a different path in mind. And so Paul headed to the city of Philippia, a former battleground (something like Gettysburg) and a popular city for Roman soldiers to retire at that time. Here Paul did not arrive at some great synagogue or temple to meet with the leading religious figures but instead ran into a small gathering of women along the riverside who just happened to be worshiping the God of the Jews. One of ladies was named Lydia, and God no doubt changed her plans that day. She was a business woman who became the first Christian convert in Europe and who provided her own home as likely the first church ever started in Europe!
Whatever happens to Lydia (which is unknown to us beyond this story), we do know this intersection between her and St Paul did not happen by chance. God was sending the right people at the right time to build His Kingdom and spread the message of His Son, Jesus. And the Holy Spirit guided them every step of the way as promised in today’s Gospel reading, “I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth…he will testify… [and] you also.” On account of Lydia’s hospitality and obedience to the Holy Spirit, her simple home became a platform for the first evangelization into Europe which changed the fate of the entire Western world for the next 2,000 years!
Has God ever drastically changed your plans? I think we can all relate to that question! Though these surprises can bring joy, often times they are first accompanied by confusion, doubt, heartache and possibly even anger and grief. We had our plans, and well, God crashed those plans. Perhaps you have now found out ‘the why’ behind these changes by now or perhaps you are still waiting for the answer. Whatever the case, take heart today that God is the great orchestrator. Not only will He work out everything, even evil or significant loss, for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), He will also send the right people at the right time into your life to build His kingdom and bring deeper meaning and purpose to your life.
Are you ready? To be ready for God’s best for your life, you must become a person of prayer and surrender to His will daily. God does not promise to work out everything according to your will but His. Thankfully, St Paul and St Lydia were ready to say ‘Yes’ to God when the opportunities arose and all of Europe eventually found their hope in Christ. They left their mark on the world and God will use you to leave your mark upon it if you are willing to say ‘Yes.’
Thank you Jesus for crashing our plans. From the ashes, may you make new men, and in turn, a new world!
St Lydia’s feast day is celebrated on August 3rd in the Catholic Church. Today, an outdoor chapel stands where Lydia is said to have been first baptized.