In our Scripture readings for today, we have a stark contrast to how the early Christians were received. In our first reading from Acts, Paul and his companions arrive in Philippi. There they meet a woman named Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth.” She and her household are baptized and she invites them to stay at her home.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus warns His disciples about the persecution they would be facing: “I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.” Jesus tells His disciples to expect hostility and violence.
So, we read these readings in terms of what happened to those early disciples. But I think the challenge these readings present is not so much about how we are received, but how we are to receive others. Do we show hospitality or hostility to strangers, or those we consider “other?” In these times when people can get caught up in division and suspicion of those who are different, the question is not taken lightly. We as a church have such an opportunity to witness to something different than what is prevalent in our society.
May we follow the example of Lydia, and open our hearts to those who are searching, those who are hurting, and those who are desperate to find meaning in their lives.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.