27 May, 2017. Saturday, Week 6

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

1st Reading: Acts 18:23-28

Aquila, a learned convert from Judaism, helps the church in southern Greece

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

Final promises: Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete

Jesus said to his disciples,
“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.”


Priscilla and Aquila, Lay Apostles

While the gospel stresses dependence on the  Spirit, the Acts takes a different slant: our faith also needs guidance from our fellow human beings. Apollos was certainly on the way toward being a disciple of Jesus and showed great goodwill, but he still needed the help of others. In the plan of God, he would be led into the mystery of Jesus through the ministry of the couple Priscilla and Aquila. Remarkably, the wife is named before her husband, which indicates the strong role of this woman in the early Church’s ministry. Texts like this help us to appreciate the attitude of St. Paul toward women and the teamwork of married people in the Church’s apostolic work.

Prisca and Aquila not only provided a welcome for other Christians in Ephesus but served as educators in theology. To dialogue with someone as knowledgeable as Apollos and lead him beyond the message of John the Baptist meant that the couple were well informed, capable of dialogue and open to insights from the Holy Spirit. Apollos was risking his security and his renown as a learned preacher to be led beyond the borders of his eloquence. His journey of fuller conversion was made under the direction of Priscilla and Aquila. Evidently the Spirit is received while people share their faith with one another. A community of faith must be formed in which it becomes evident that all are open to what the Holy Spirit will reveal.

Jesus himself exemplified this process of transformation. He must leave this world in order to send the Holy Spirit. This offers a good comparison with the risks of leaving behind the tried and true, as experienced by Apollos. To belong to Jesus we must share in Jesus’ total surrender to the Father. On making such a gift of oneself we will more fully realize where Jesus is leading us: “I have come from the Father, into the world. Now I am leaving the world to go to the Father.”

A talented and sharing community

Today’s text from Acts describes members of the early church supporting and helping each other in their faith. Paul is shown encouraging all the followers, and reference is also made to Apollos, a member of the church in Ephesus, a very gifted man, but not fully formed in the faith. A married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, took a great interest in him and gave him further instruction in the faith, sharing their deeper understanding of the faith with him. Then when Apollos decided to journey from Ephesus to the church in Corinth, the members of the church in Ephesus encouraged him to do so. Since they realized that others could benefit from his gifts, they didn’t want to keep him for themselves, and even sent a letter of recommendation ahead of him to the church in Corinth. When Apollos arrived in Corinth the Acts says that his knowledge of the Scriptures was a great help to the believers there. The reading paints a wonderful picture of the church at its best – believers helping, supporting and encouraging each other in the faith, helping one another to grow in the Lord. This is what the church is called to be in every generation; this is the church in which the Spirit of Christ is alive and active. As we approach the feast of Pentecost we need to pray for an increase of the gift of the Spirit among us, as Jesus says in today’s gospel, “Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.”

Saint Augustine of Canterbury, bishop

Augustine was an Italian Benedictine monk sent by pope Gregory the Great as the first Archbishop of Canterbury. In 597, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet, Kent, and proceeded to Canterbury. When King Æthelberht allowed the missionaries to preach freely, Augustine converted many of the king’s subjects, including thousands during a mass baptism on Christmas Day in 597. He is honoured the “Apostle of England.”

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