In previous passages from the Acts of the Apostles, it is clear, that apostolic missionary activities were guided by the Holy Spirit. In some places, the Apostles were even blocked by the Holy Spirit, from preaching.
In today’s reading, an arduous travel itinerary (it is 156 miles from Troas to Neapolis, the port for the city of Philippi), is chronicled. This account takes place near the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, and describes the conversion of the household of Lydia.
Put yourself in this scene. Lydia and the other women were gathered by the river, when the apostles happened along, seeking a place to pray. Probably looking for a quiet, private, spot, with some shade, to sit down, rest, and pray. Perhaps the women offered them some water to drink. The Apostles engaged the women, sharing their story, maybe giving details of their journey, where they came from, how far they had walked and most importantly, why. In their quest to make Jesus known far and wide, they had seen many miracles, had suffered much, yet they persevered; these sojourner’s stories were incredible and filled with hope!
Lydia paid attention. She was already a believer in God, but further conversion took place in her heart, that day. She was introduced to Jesus. As a result, Lydia’s entire household were Baptized and she urged the Apostles to stay with her and accept her hospitality.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit of Truth, the Advocate, will testify and that they, too, will testify. He does not minimize the cost of this mission. He outlines the sufferings that the Apostles will endure as they testify.
Sometimes we are afraid to testify to the Lord Jesus. We worry about how others will perceive us; we might be attacked or shamed. If we don’t take the risk, we could also totally miss important moments, incredible conversion stories, or the wonderful friendships that arise, through our efforts! The Holy Spirit guides the work of conversion, not us. Our missionary journey does not have to be complicated or involve hundreds of miles of travel. Engaging with others, simply by sitting down to pray, or sharing our story, can open hearts. Telling of how we have been led (and sometimes blocked) by the Holy Spirit, or how Jesus has acted at certain moments in our lives; healing and forgiving. And how our missionary journey through a life of faith, brought us to this moment and how Jesus wants to act in the lives of those we encounter, along the way.
In life, everyone we meet, all those placed in our paths, are sent to us for a reason. If we always look to God and ask: What do you want me to do, or to learn from this encounter? Let me see this person as you see them, love them as you love them, say what you want them to hear. Call on the Holy Spirit for guidance. Sometimes the encounter is for their benefit, and sometimes, it is for ours!
The apostles were meant to meet these women, and in particular, Lydia, that day. Her conversion was desired by Jesus. The Holy Spirit guided the itinerary. They shared the message of Jesus Christ, and many were Baptized that day. The missionaries trusted in God’s providence and were not disappointed.