MAY 10, 2010: MONDAY OF 6TH WEEK OF EASTER: ACTS 16:11-15; JOHN 15:26- 16:4


THE LORD OPENED THE HEART OF LYDIA TO ACCEPT WHAT PAUL WAS SAYING.  Lydia was the first person in Europe who we know became a Christian. We know only a little about her: Saint Luke tells us that she was a successful woman of affairs who was head of her own prosperous business as well as of her ample household in Philippi. We can infer from these few details that she was a capable and strong personality. That she invited Paul and Luke to be her guests and was able to overcome Paul’s initial resistance to her invitation to stay suggests too that she was a warmly friendly personality as well as a convincing speaker. The fact that Paul came to have a special affection for the Philippians was due clearly to the hospitality he and his companion experienced during his stay at Lydia’s spacious home. But surely the most significant point mentioned by Luke in his brief account of the encounter with Lydia is the fact that her conversion took place when, as he states it, “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying.”


Only by the mysterious workings of grace can the human heart be receptive to ultimate truth. Grace that opens and sustains the heart is a gift of Gods initiative. Luke makes that clear in this incident. He also points out that Lydia had prepared herself for this favor by her life of reverence for God, following the inner light of her spirit. Her responsiveness to Paul’s preaching was to prove the beginning of a movement that resulted in the building up of a community of believers. No doubt her witness and energy contributed to the success of Paul’s mission of spreading the good news of Christ’s redeeming work in Philippi and made his stay there not only fruitful but also happy.


The same Spirit, who opened the heart of Lydia and built up the Church in Philippi, was promised by the Lord Jesus in advance, as we learn in today’s Gospel. Just before he went to his passion and death Christ assured his apostles that, though he was about to leave them, they would not be left alone. “When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father— and whom I myself will send from the Father— he will bear witness on my behalf.” The active presence of the Spirit is a consoling force that gives confidence amidst trials that are sure to come upon us who live according to the teaching of Jesus. Our Lord’s life reveals how he was not recognized for the divine person he is in fact, as he states here in his own words. “They know neither the Father nor me”, he tells his disciples, as a result they will think they serve God by persecuting you, even to death.


This promise of the Spirit as a consoling and strengthening helper to his faithful believers is made to us today through the Church. Today’s Gospel is announced to us to encourage us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Spirit as we look forward to the feast of Pentecost. Like Lydia we can prepare our selves for receiving a new, strong light that opens our heart to the Spirit of truth, as Jesus calls the Holy Spirit by showing reverence for God by daily fidelity. Rightly to effect this preparation of the heart we must daily so go about our work, our dealing with people, our reading, and meditation as to act from the heart. For it is in this deeper center of our person that the Spirit prompts us with his light and strengthens our weaknesses by his powerful, quiet grace. This interior work that leads to the cultivation of our spiritual senses brings about our increasing likeness to our Lord, and prepares us for life with him in the Presence of the Father. This labor of the heart requires the nourishment that is the fruit of the Eucharist. When our Lord instituted the Eucharist he gave us special access to the grace of the Spirit that opened the heat of Lydia long ago in Philippi. We have this sacrament as a privileged source of Gods mercy and love. Let us make it our business to offer this holy sacrifice with our whole heart, so that our heart too may be opened and strengthened. And may we stand faithful to the Gospel as we live out our daily life in service to the Lord and to his people. &            

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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