After Lydia's conversion and baptism, she invites Paul and Silas into her home. With Christianity's arrival in Europe, he said, there is "the beginning of a process of inculturation that endures even today."
Pope Francis explained these episodes in terms of consolation and desolation. This moment with Lydia was a moment of receiving the Holy Spirit's consolation, he said. When Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown into prison, they pass from consolation to a moment of desolation.
They were thrown into prison because they freed a slave girl from possession to an evil spirit which gave her the power of "fortune-telling." After the exorcism, her master was angered that he could no longer earn a profit people who paid to have their fortune told by her.
The pope noted that even today there are people who will pay to have their palms read or to tell them their fortunes, something he witnessed as the archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina. "People believe in these things. And pay," he said.
But in prison, instead of giving in to desolation, Silas and St. Paul pray and praise God with song, he said, "and this praise releases a power that liberates them: during the prayer an earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison, the doors are opened and everyone's chains fall off."
The jailer is going to kill himself, because the prison guards are supposed to pay with their lives if the prisoners escape, but Paul shouts out, "Do no harm to yourself; we are all here."
Then, a miracle happens, Francis said. The guard asks what he must do to be saved, and the answer of Silas and St. Paul is: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved."
The two men preach the Gospel to the jailer and his family, who welcome them into their home and wash their wounds, and later receive baptism.
"In the heart of the night of this anonymous jailer, the light of Christ shines and defeats darkness: the chains of the heart fall off and a joy never felt in him and in his family blossoms," Francis said. "Thus the Holy Spirit began the mission."
"We also ask the Holy Spirit today for an open heart, sensitive to God and hospitable to our brothers, like that of Lydia," he said, "and a bold faith, like that of Paul and Silas, and also an opening of the heart, like that of the jailer who lets himself be touched by the Holy Spirit."
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.