Sometimes what appear to be chance encounters can be life changing.
It is easy to picture the scene in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It is the Sabbath and Paul and his companions, visitors in a strange city, following the example of Jesus, walk down by the river to look for a quiet place to pray.
Near the place they choose are some women. One of them, Acts tells us, is Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. Her name is mentioned because she goes on to be important to the early Church. Purple dye, used to make purple cloth was rare and expensive. It was made from the mucus of the hypobranchial gland of various species of marine mollusks, notably Murex. It took some 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye. Only the rich could afford it. Lydia was wealthy and successful, but she must have been looking for something more.
Lydia overheard Paul and his friends praying and and “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”
The same scene could take place today in a Starbucks, or on the bus, or in the park. The world is full of Lydias. Most of them won’t be moved by a sidewalk preacher predicting the end of the world like the ones that shout at me when I walk past them in NYC, but they might be touched by faith shared in quiet conversation or a whispered promise of prayer.
Lydia went on to be a key figure in the early Church. The Church in Philippi met in her house.
We never really know who’s listening.
Sister Mary Ann Strain, CP lives in Union City, NJ and helps represent the Passionists at the United Nations.
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