19th May. Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter
Acts 18:23ff. Aquila, a learned convert from Judaism, benefits the church in Greece.
John 16:23ff. ‘Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.’
While the gospel implies 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. He was certainly on the way toward being a disciple of Jesus and was a man of tremendous good will. Yet, good will was not enough, and in the plan of God, Apollos would be led into the mystery of Jesus through the ministry of the couple Priscilla and Aquila.
We note how the wife’s name precedes that of her husband, contrary to the customs of the time and indicative of the strong role of this woman in the Church’s ministry. Texts like this help us appreciate the attitude of St. Paul toward women and toward the teamwork by 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 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.
Apollos had to be ready to go beyond the limits of what he knew and controlled. He had to be drawn like Job into new insights. What he knew, he knew exceptionally well; but he was also convinced that the fulfilment of his desires lay beyond himself. He was risking his security, and his renown as a preacher to be led beyond the borders of his previous knowledge and eloquence. And he made that journey under the direction of two interpreters of spirit, Priscilla and Aquila. Evidently the Spirit is received while people share spirit with one another. A community of faith must be formed in which all open to what the Spirit will reveal. And so it was that 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, as experienced by Apollos. Today’s 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.
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.”