On the Sabbath, we (Paul and his companions) went outside the city gate to the river where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God.
As we celebrate this Easter season, it is encouraging to read the accounts of the early missionaries of the Church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. In the passage quoted above, Paul has arrived in Philippi, a key city in the Macedonian region of what is now Greece. It is quite apparent from Paul’s later letter to the Philippians, which is written when he is imprisoned, that he had a great love and affection for the believers in this city and had great faith that they could withstand whatever future persecutions might come their way for believing in Christ. At its inception, the community must have been small as they were not allowed to meet in the city itself. The reason they had to meet outside the city gate was because there was a prohibition, written on the arches of the city, that forbade bringing any unrecognized religion into the city. Much like Jesus who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, those who were unwelcomed in Philippi had to congregate outside the gates as well. Adapting, as a good missionary would, sensitive to those whom others may have discarded or written off, and never allowing cultural or gender boundaries to deter his evangelistic spirit, Paul and his companions find a place conducive to prayer where they proclaim the good new of Jesus Christ to a group of women! The one mentioned is an influential merchant, who most likely was able to convince those in authority to give the fledgling Christian community some leeway. She most likely had a wealthy clientele, as purple was expensive back then and worn by the nobility. As Missionaries of the Precious Blood Men and Women today, we must emulate Paul’s example of going where the gospel needs to be heard, engaging with all segments of society, but especially the most neglected, abandoned or judged. We must work together and help support one another in moments of trial and difficulty and look for opportunities to make Christ more known and loved. For when we do so, the Holy Spirit will work in us to extend the nets of God’s kingdom ever wider.
Rev. Sam D’Angelo, CPPS