Paul, writing to the people of Philippi, spoke of how he longed to be with those kind people. We like hearing that. We needn’t see his Letter as just a page out of a religious textbook.
When he and Silas and Timothy sailed across the Aegean Sea, they made for Philippi, the Roman capitol of northern Greece, and on the Sabbath they took a stroll down a riverbank. What sounds novel to us is that he said they were looking for a place out in Nature where people might pray.
They fond a group who were praying, and their spokesperson was a woman named Lydia who was a dealer in purple dyed goods from Thyatira.
(Present day Thyatira is a Turkish inland town, and critics of the New Testament point out that there is no source for purple dye there. However, Archaeology now assures us that in Paul’s time Thyatira was an island where people processed purple dye from squid.)
Since the group gathered on the riverbank that day had come to pray, they regarded Paul’s appearance as God’s answer to their prayers; and they so joyfully accepted Christ that Paul soon deemed them ready for Baptism.
Now, Paul, who had been trained in tent making, never accepted support from anyone. However, he could not withstand Lydia’s insistence that he and his companions accept the hospitality of the Christians at Philippi. Not only did they feed them well then, they continued afterwards to forward support. The warm feelings Paul shared with those people adds beauty to this Letter to the Philippians that we will read through next week’s Masses.