Day 339: Priscilla and Aquila
Acts 18:1-11 The Christians at Corinth received two of Paul’s Epistles, which are inspired and, therefore, are included in the canon of Scripture. Corinth was a major port city with a populace steeped in idolatry and perverse immorality. The pogrom of Jews in Rome took place around AD 50, and, consequently, some Jews resettled in Corinth, creating a substantial Jewish community. The Jews, as monotheists, were arguably closer to understanding the Gospels than the Gentiles of Corinth; however, it was among the Gentiles that Paul had his greatest success. Nevertheless, he managed to baptize the leader of the synagogue together with his household. (CCC 4, 597, 1252, 1655)
Ch 18:12-17 Gallio, unlike Pilate, successfully refused to judge a case that pertained strictly to a matter of religion. Sosthenes evidently was favorably inclined toward Paul and was abused by the stalwart Jews for this attitude.
Ch 18:18-23 Paul later would write a New Testament epistle to the community he founded in Ephesus.
He had a vow: In the Book of Numbers, Nazirites were men who consecrated themselves to God for a period of time by allowing their hair to grow long and abstaining from alcoholic beverages (cf. Nm 6:5). Shaving one’s head indicated the satisfaction of the vow. “A vow, that is, a deliberate and free promise made to God about a possible and better good, must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion” (CIC 1191 S1). (CCC 2102)
Ch 18:24-28 Apollos was a well-educated man, a convert from Judaism instructed in the Christian Faith by a couple, Aquila and Priscilla. (CCC 1229-1230)
1 Corinthians 16:1-24 During his years of ministry, we know of two times Paul took up a collection and delivered it to the Church in Jerusalem, whose members were suffering from the effects of famine. The first came from the Church at Antioch, which he delivered about AD 46; the second came from a number of early Church communities, which was delivered about AD 57. Following the example of Christ, Christians have always shared their gifts and resources with those in need and in support of the Church. The collection taken up during the Mass is well within this spirit. The Corporal Works of Mercy outline the practice of charity that should be exercised toward those in need (cf. CCC 2447). (CCC 752, 823-826, 1269, 1351, 2849)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Corinth: Counter Cult, Countercultural
Thriving cities in antiquity dealt with their growth and extended their political and economic power by establishing colonies.
These colonies were created by founding or refounding a city that served as a satellite to the mother city, with leading citizens organizing and structuring the colony to ensure that the cult, culture, and social structure of the mother city was replicated in its political daughter.
Julius Caesar established Corinth as a Roman colony and settled many freed slaves of Rome and veteran soldiers there, thus ensuring that the Greek city of Corinth was thoroughly Romanized.
This policy made Rome the hub of the empire from which the newly planted colonies were like so many spokes, forming the ever-expanding wheel of Roman rule that sought to encompass the world.
Similarly, Paul sees himself as planting new communities (1 Cor 3:6) and as a “master builder” building on the “foundation” of Christ (1 Cor 3:10), forming a network of communities loyal to a single “Lord,” Jesus.
Paul’s travel itinerary reveals that the cities he selects to plant the gospel of Jesus—cities like Philippi, Antioch, Pisidian Antioch, Paphos, Ephesus, Corinth, and even Rome itself—are all strategic centers of Roman rule.
This is corroborated by the fact that Paul visits Athens only for a brief time, while waiting for friends, in order to move on to the more strategic Roman colony of Corinth.
Paul takes the gospel of Jesus Christ right to the center of the key cities of the Roman world, making use of Rome’s established network of colonies to spread the Gospel to the end of the world.
The Corinth of Paul’s day was a thriving city, teeming with people.
With its narrow isthmus bordered by the Aegean and Ionian seas, Corinth straddled two busy ports and was a hub of trade and business.
Corinth was the location of the Isthmian games, second only in popularity to the Olympics.
Ancient writers describe a great tent city growing up during the games and more than doubling the city’s size.
This explains Paul’s long stay in the city as a tentmaker; his handiwork served to supply the tents needed for the games.
Caesar Augustus, the sponsor and benefactor of the Roman world, changed the name of the Isthmian games to the Caesar Augustus Isthmian games, which simply became known as the Caesarean games.
While athletic events were the focus of the games, cultic sacrifices were offered to Caesar at the opening ceremony and on each day of the games, followed by great feasts.
Such cultic sacrifices, both at the games and for the feast days of the Caesar cult throughout the year, took place at the imperial temple dedicated to Caesar, which overlooked Corinth’s forum.
In addition, numerous other temples and statues dominated the architecture and culture of Corinth.
Pagan temples, which doubled as restaurants, offered sacrifices followed by feasts marked by drunkenness and sexual immorality.
Paul writes to the Corinthians telling them that not only are they not to go to these immoral pagan feasts and banquet halls (1 Cor 8-10), but when they gather for the Christian Eucharist, they must be modestly dressed (1 Cor 11:2-16) and must no longer get drunk (1 Cor 11:17-22) as they would at a pagan festival.
Instead, they must be sober and discern the body of Christ in the bread that they break, lest they be “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).
Paul is at pains to point out that you become what you worship, and if you worship Christ, you become his body, which he goes on to describe in 1 Corinthians 12.
Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthians emphasizing the crucifixion of Christ.
The cross is countercultural and turns the wisdom and power of the world upside down.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:22-24).
Paul concludes his letter with a focus on Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor 15).
Thus, Paul frames his letter to the Corinthians with the death and resurrection of Jesus, showing how the paschal mystery of Jesus frames the Christian life.
Paul’s Prophetic Collection for Jerusalem
At the end of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he mentions the “contribution for the saints” in need in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8-9).
As the time for bringing this collection to Jerusalem draws near, Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, saying, “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with the aid for the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contributions for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it, and indeed they are in debt to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (Rom 15:25-27)
This act of fraternal charity unites the more prosperous Gentiles to their poorer Jewish brethren in Judea.
Beyond being an act of obedience to Peter, who asked Paul to remember the poor in his missions, the Gentile contribution, in Paul’s view, fulfilled important prophecies in Israel’s Scriptures that when God restored the fortunes of Israel through a messianic kingdom renewal, this renewal would reach as far as the Gentiles who would come to Jerusalem and bring tribute and worship to Israel’s God (Is 2, 66; Zec 14).
The Gentiles are now worshiping the one true God, and their contributions to the church in Jerusalem help fulfill these ancient prophecies.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
So kind of a shorter reading today 😁
Let’s start with Proverbs because there is something….well obviously God’s Word is ALWAYS insightful
But Proverbs 28:21, “To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.”
It reminds us of Jacob and Esau
Remember when Esau came in from the wilderness and Jacob had a bowl of red porridge and here is Esau who is willing to trade ANYTHING for a bit of stew (Now I know I’ve reminded you before of this story, but what’s another reminder? Go back and read Day 13: Esau Sells His Birthright in The Bible in a Year Study Guide for a refresher 😁)
That sense of bribery and how we would do ANYTHING
Maybe not for a piece of bread
Maybe your price is higher
We recognize, “Man, Lord, I can be too fickle. In fact, too often I can be too fickle. So please help me to be resolute. Help me to let you be my North Star, your truth be the guiding compass that helps us walk through this life.”
When we know ourselves, we know how EASILY we can be toppled
How EASILY we can be set off course
Now on to Acts Ch 18 and 1 Corinthians Ch 16
We recognize how Jesus speaks to Paul
A little backstory
Paul goes to Corinth and is a tentmaker by trade
He meets Aquila and his wife Priscilla, fellow tentmakers
They came to Corinth from Italy because Emperor Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome
So here is an INCREDIBLE WAY that God uses CROOKED LINES to write a STRAIGHT STORY
Priscilla and Aquila are in Corinth because of persecution
They encounter Paul who brings them to Jesus and sets them on a new course
Pope Benedict XVI said, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty ideal.”
Basically not because we are trying to be good or because we are trying to shoot for the stars or because we have good morals
Pope Benedict XVI said, “Being a Christian is the result of an encounter with a person. That encounter with a person gives one's life a new horizon and sets it in a decisive direction.”
You have this right here where Aquila and Priscilla, who are in Corinth because of exile, encounter Paul
That encounter of Jesus THROUGH PAUL radically transforms their lives
IT IS REMARKABLE!!
Because from now on, Aquila and Priscilla are going to be missionary evangelists themselves
They are going to preach the Gospel
Not just make tents in Corinth
They are going to go all over the place
We also have the introduction of how Timothy and Silas got to know the Corinthians
At the end of 1 Corinthians Ch 16 we have all these people who are named in The Acts of the Apostles and all these people who are also named at the beginning of the Letter to the Corinthians
It’s really remarkable that at the close of this letter 1 Corinthians 16:10, “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him.”
Later on St. Paul is going to say to Timothy, “Let no one despise you because of your youth.”
So maybe that was a reason why he is saying LET NO ONE DESPISE HIM
Because Timothy was a young person
It could be tempting for the Corinthian church to look down on Timothy because of his youth
And Paul tells them not to do that and he also reminds Timothy to not let people despise him because of his youth
There is something so POWERFUL AND BEAUTIFUL there
These people were VERY CLOSE to each other
They KNEW each other
They WORKED together
Not only that…
But in Acts of the Apostles today, we encounter Apollos and we get a little bit of his backstory
Apollos was a convert
He was eloquent and well-spoken
He spoke accurately about the Lord Jesus
But he only had the Baptism of John
So then what happens?
He gets taught...and this is SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT
He gets taught by Priscilla and Aquila
There is this thing called DOCILITY
Sometimes we can think of DOCILITY as a bad word because we think it means passive
DOCILITY means that I am OPEN TO BEING TAUGHT
Here is Apollos who is INCREDIBLY GIFTED
He is an eloquent man
He is well versed in the Scriptures
He had been instructed in the way of the Lord
He was fervent in spirit
He spoke accurately
And then he gets CORRECTED
And then what happens?
HE LETS HIMSELF BE TAUGHT!!
It is INCREDIBLE that when we are OPEN TO BEING TAUGHT
When we are OPEN TO BEING CORRECTED…
GOD CAN DO INCREDIBLE THINGS WITH US!!
Now maybe when a person is really talented, they are LESS OPEN to being corrected
BUT...if a person is talented, gifted, skilled, and OPEN TO BEING TAUGHT
That means there is NO LIMIT
It is similar to GRACE
It’s one thing to be blessed by the Lord
It’s another thing to allow him to bless abundantly with his GRACE
EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES!!
Sometimes a lot of us are tempted to only allow God to bless PARTS of our lives
“God, this is the part of my life that you can bless because it belongs to you. But these other parts of my life belong to me, so yeah go ahead and bless them but don’t use them as well.”
Of course, that is a trap and DON’T DO THAT!! Admiral Ackbar - "It's A Trap!"
Here is Apollos who was INCREDIBLY BLESSED
And then FURTHER BLESSED
Because he ALLOWED HIMSELF to be corrected
He ALLOWED HIMSELF to be taught
Now remember at the beginning of 1 Corinthians Paul said there were factions
Some belonged to Paul
Some belonged to Apollos
Some belonged to Cephas
Paul here is commending the Corinthians
“Hey, receive our brother Apollos. I strongly urged him to visit you.”
If Paul was threatened by the division and factions he would say, “Yeah, Apollos you stay away. These are my folks and I don’t want you to try and win them to your side.”
Instead he says, “I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brethren. But it was not at all his will to come now.”
Now that could mean it was not Apollos’ will
It could also mean that it was not God’s will for him
But here is St. Paul concluding with words that echo Acts Ch 18
Sorry, Fr. Mike is going back and forth between Acts and 1 Corinthians
It’s so connected and it blows my mind how CONNECTED our readings are today
Acts Ch 18 and 1 Corinthians Ch 16
Acts 18:9, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city.’”
Paul ultimately was attacked many times
He was told by Jesus Christ to be STRONG
To be COURAGEOUS
To be BOLD
To NOT BE AFRAID
And what does Paul say at the end of this Letter to the Corinthians?
1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
WHAT AN INCREDIBLE GIFT!!
Paul receives from the Lord
DO NOT BE AFRAID
HAVE CONFIDENCE IN ME
Then Paul is able to then say to the people he loves THE SAME THINGS!!
STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH
LET ALL THAT YOU DO BE DONE IN LOVE
This is the TRUTH for EVERY ONE OF US
Those are the words that EVERY ONE OF US CAN BE BLESSED BY!!
Because they are the Words of Jesus FOR US
DO NOT BE AFRAID
WALK IN COURAGE
WALK IN FAITH
LET EVERYTHING YOU DO BE DONE IN LOVE
Easier said than done, so we PRAY
We ask God for his GRACE to be able to live that way
To BE that kind of person
To BE that kind of people
We want to be that kind of person
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. And thank you, Lord God, for all these people. We keep hearing these stories of these men and women who spread your Word, these stories of these men and women who laid down their lives, these stories of these men and women who were willing to expose themselves to argumentation, and to derision, and to being mocked, and to being killed for the opportunity to share your goodness, your truth, your love, your hope to the world. Lord, help us to be these kinds of people. Help us to be this kind of men and women. Help us to belong to you more and more fully every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”