04 Jun Saturday in the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 18:23ff. Aquila, a learned convert from Judaism, was a great help to the church in southern Greece.
John 16:23ff. ‘Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.’
While the gospel implies an immediate awareness of the Holy Spirit and a direct communication between ourselves and the heavenly Father, the first reading seems to take a different slant. Acts points out that despite his brilliance, learning and eloquence Apollos had not advanced beyond the teaching of John the Baptist. Apollos was certainly on the way toward being a disciple of Jesus and was a person of tremendous good will. Yet, good will was not enough. In the plan of God, Apollos would be led into the mystery of Jesus through the ministry of the couple Priscilla and Aquila.
It is interesting to note that the wife’s name precedes that of her husband, a phenomenon somewhat unusual for the customs of the time and indicative of the strong role of this woman in the Church’s ministry. Texts like this one help us to appreciate the attitude of St. Paul toward women and toward the team work of married people in the apostolate of the Church. This couple not only acted as a welcoming committee at Ephesus but also as educators in theology. To dialogue with someone as sharp and knowledgeable as Apollos and to lead him beyond the Hebrew Scriptures and the preaching of John the Baptist meant that the couple were well informed, capable of making distinctions and advancing the discussion, and most of all open to incisive insights from the Holy Spirit.
For Apollos to advance beyond his perception of the Hebrew Scriptures and beyond his loyalty to John the Baptist, it was necessary that he explore the Bible to its outer limit. Like Job it would be necessary that he be impelled by his inquisitive mind and desire for truth, to reach beyond human consolations and accepted wisdom. With pathetic strength Job wrote about this search: “Oh, that I had one to hear my case, and that my accuser would write out his indictment! Surely, I would wear it on my shoulder or put it on me like a diadem; Of all my steps I should give him an account; like a prince I should present myself before him.
Apollos had to be ready for the plunge beyond the limits of what he knew and controlled. He had to be compelled like Job to share his luminous and convincing insights, insights all the while that manifested both sturdy control and fragile fear. What Apollos knew, he knew exceptionally well; but he was also convinced that the fulfillment of his desires lay beyond him and required a risk of all of his knowledge. He had to take his case immediately before his maker. He probably felt again like Job when he was discussing that evening with Priscilla and Aquila: “I will take my flesh between my teeth, and take my life in my hand (Job 13:14).
Apollos was risking his security, his theological synthesis, and his renown as a self-possessed preacher to be led beyond the borders of his human knowledge and eloquence. The Spirit could have led Apollos into the mystery of Jesus in the solitude of a desert or in the privacy of his room. Rather that mysterious journey was made under the direction of two superior teachers and interpreters of spirit, Priscilla and Aquila. Evidently the Spirit is received while people share that spirit with one another. A community of faith must be formed in which it becomes evident that all are risking their possessions and even their very selves for what the Spirit will reveal. Within the church of Ephesus the Holy Spirit was granted to God’s servant Apollos.
Jesus himself exemplified this process of conversion and transformation. He must leave this world in order to send the Holy Spirit. In this respect there is a good comparison with the risks of leaving behind the tried and true, experienced by Apollos. To ask in Jesus’ name is to be one with Jesus’ total surrender to the Father. Only in making such a gift of oneself do we realize where we have come from and where we are being led. “I have come from the Father, into the world. Now I am leaving the world to go to the Father.”
These two biblical readings then lay out a plan for spiritual direction. More than that, they show the absolute necessity of seeking and receiving advice in a context of total sharing of the Spirit.
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the courage to pursue the Scriptures and to know them thoroughly. We confess our need for a Priscilla and Aquila to share the Spirit. Then what is veiled in human wisdom and human control will manifest its wondrous, mysterious truth, in the person of your son, Jesus.
First Reading: Acts 18:23-28
After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.
Gospel: John 16:23-28
On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”