I love the image of the first female small group in the New Testament reading, Acts 16:11-15. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home" (Acts 16:15).
Instead of visiting a synagogue, Saint Paul goes to a place of prayer along the river in Thyatira, near Philippi. There he encounters Lydia, one of my favorite women in the New Testament, gathered with a group of women praying together, possibly sharing a Sabbath meal. This gathering conjures to mind the Blessed Brunches I hold at my home where we share a meal and our hearts.
When Saint Paul arrives, he opens the hearts of the women, and they "pay attention to what Paul was saying" (Acts 16:14). Lydia not only opened her heart that morning, but she also opened her home.
Lydia is very much like you and me, sister. She had a career and enough wealth to have her own home and invite Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Because no men are mentioned in her baptism and conversion of her household, some commentators suggest that she could have been either widowed, divorced, or single. She worshipped God and was respected by her community, so much so that the Church in Philippi formed.
She is a female leader in the early Church who goes unnoticed by many, but not me. She served humbly, passionately, and boldly. I can’t help but wonder if she was a martyr for her faith, or if she just watched fellow disciples of Christ, including Saint Paul, endure horrible fates for their unyielding belief in Christ.
Sisters, there is much we can learn from Lydia.
For starters, we need to gather women around us using technology and the internet in the shelter-in-place times and worshipping God in our homes. Listen and pay attention to the testimony of the Saints and of those you welcome into the inner rooms of your soul. Finally, prevail in opening the doors of your heart to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
By doing so, you might just be entertaining the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
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Tricia Tembreull is a California girl with a boundless passion for life. After two decades of ministering to teens and youth ministers as a trainer, ministry mentor, and speaker in Catholic youth ministry, Tricia now serves as Campus Minister at USC Caruso Catholic Center. She loves adventure and seeks it everywhere she goes. As an avid foodie, she enjoys testing new recipes out on friends and family, gathering them around the table to encounter Christ in one another and be drawn to the satisfying unity we crave in the Eucharist. You can find out more about her here.