As a cradle Catholic with 16 years of Catholic school, I estimate that I attended Mass close to 7,000 times. And yet occasionally one of the day’s readings surprises me. “I’ve never heard that before!” I think, while knowing this cannot possibly be true!
That’s how I felt when reading today’s passage from Acts. Apollos was unfamiliar. Priscilla I remembered, less so Aquila. Some quick research informed me that Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple, were tentmakers, friends of Paul, and leaders in the early Church. Apollos, mentioned here for the first time, became an important leader and rumored author of the Letter to the Hebrews.
The first thing I noticed in this reading was the boldness of Apollos. He did not wait for permission. In fact, he did not even wait until he knew everything there was to know! Instead, he “spoke boldly.” He knew he was a scholar of Scripture and a gifted speaker, and he did not hesitate to use these talents in service of Christ and his Church.
Priscilla and Aquila were already leaders. They heard Apollos preaching something a little off (what exactly is unclear). They were not jealous of his oratory skills or worried that he was infringing on their territory. They did not denounce him publicly for his mistakes in doctrine. Instead, they “took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.” And when he wished to preach in other places, they and other leaders encouraged him, writing a letter of introduction for him so that he was able to give “great assistance” to the Christian community.
We can learn much from the example of these early Church leaders. Like Apollos, we have gifts that God wants us to place at the service of the Church. We may not be Scripture scholars or orators, but we ALL have gifts. But how many of us never use them? We worry we do not know enough, that we are not ready, that we might look stupid or make a mistake. So we miss doing the work God wanted us to do.
Apollos spoke boldly, and he got a few things wrong. We can learn from Priscilla and Aquila’s reaction. They spoke to him privately and did not embarrass him. They did not shut him down; they rather instructed him and encouraged him in his ministry. They saw him as a partner, not a rival, because they shared a goal: to bring souls to Christ.
I cringe when I imagine how this scenario might play out today. If Apollos ever worked up the courage to speak at all, he would probably be attacked for his mistakes. We can and should do better. We can learn from our predecessors to lift each other up and encourage one another in sharing the love of Christ.
Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.
Feature Image Credit: kasosita, www.cathopic.com/photo/13983-compartiendo-con-otros-palabra-dios