By Lydia O'Kane
Despite pilgrims and tourists having their umbrellas to the ready for Wednesday’s General Audience, the brief drizzle that descended on St Peter’s Square then turned into a clear sky as Pope Francis reflected on his continuing catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles.
He told those gathered that in this book, one can see how “the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church's mission: it is He who guides the journey of the evangelizers showing them the path to follow.”
St Paul’s missionary journey
The Pope noted that this can be clearly seen when the Apostle Paul, having come to Troad, receives a vision begging him to come to Macedonia and help the people there.
The Apostle, said Pope Francis has no hesitation; he leaves for Macedonia, sure that it is God Himself who sends him, and arrives in Philippi.
The conversion of Lydia
The Pontiff explained to those present that the power of the Gospel is directed above all to the women of Philippi, in particular to Lydia, a merchant dealing in purple dye, and a believer in God to whom the Lord opens her heart "to adhere to the words of Paul".
Lydia, continued Pope Francis in fact, “welcomes Christ by receiving Baptism together with her family and welcomes those who belong to Christ, hosting Paul and Silas in her house.” “Here we have the witness of the arrival of Christianity in Europe: the beginning of a process of inculturation that still lasts today”, he said.
The Pope went on to describe how, after having received hospitality at Lydia’s house, Paul and Silas then find themselves having to deal with the harshness of prison. He remarked that they go from the consolation of this conversion of Lydia and her family, to the desolation of prison where the key is thrown away for having healed a slave girl in the name of Jesus.
Speaking off the cuff, the Pope said that this slave’s masters made much money out of getting her tell people’s fortunes.
Even today, Pope Francis commented, “there are people who pay for this” recalling in his former diocese, in a very large park, there were more than 60 tables where fortune tellers read palms and people believed and paid.
Prison and a jailer’s baptism
By praying fervently to the Lord, said the Pope, "Paul and Silas are freed of their chains by a sudden earthquake. This prompts their jailer to ask how he too can be saved, and after hearing the word of the Lord, he receives baptism together with his family.”
Concluding his catechesis, the Pope underlined how “in these events we see the working of the Holy Spirit and the unchained power of the Gospel.