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This is the first in a series of articles about women in the scriptures.

A short passage in the Acts of the Apostles introduces Lydia. In two verses we learn that she meets Paul, hears the story of Jesus and is baptised. Lydia then offers her home as a place to stay for Paul.

Acts 16:14 tells us Lydia "already reverenced God, and that Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying". She became the first Christian convert in Europe since Philippi is in Greece. Others in her household followed her example and were also baptised. A group of Christians then began to gather in her home. This 'house church' was the first gathering place for the church in Philippi.

Lydia was from Thyatira in modern day Turkey. Her home city was a gateway between East and West, a crossroad of ideas, culture, and business. This suggests she was 'cosmopolitan' knowing about the world and its peoples. Lydia was a businesswoman, a 'seller of purple,' a colour reserved for royalty. She did business with people who made clothes for kings and emperors.

Lydia is an independent woman. There is no mention of a husband of other male relative. She was a businesswoman and able to provide hospitality to Paul and his companions.

After Paul's release from prison in Philippi, Paul and Silas went back to Lydia's house. They 'encouraged the brothers and sisters there'. (Acts 16:40)

Later Paul wrote to the Philippians showing his deep affection for the community.

"I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now." (Phil 1:3-5)

Lydia was a leading figure in the local church. She partnered with Paul and Silas in spreading the gospel. Her 'house church' was a centre of missionary activity where Christians together for the breaking of the bread. Just as we do now, Lydia with that early community, would have reflected on scripture, sang songs of praise, broke the bread, blessed the cup, and shared it in a communal meal.

Today Lydia is a role model for Catholic women.

Consider how she can inspire us to partnership in ministry today.

Remember too, how readily and generously she accepted the Gospel.

Let’s reflect on how we can take the Gospel more deeply to heart and act on it in our day-to-day lives and in our various communities.

Remember how Lydia offered hospitality to Paul, Silas and the community.

Let’s use our capacity for hospitality to make the Gospel a reality in the hearts the hearts of those who most need to hear and be touched by the good news.

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