Priscilla and Aquila offer us perhaps the most beautiful example in the Bible of a wife and husband working together for the advancement of the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul was a scholarly and spiritual giant, yet he saw something special in this humble couple who made their living as tentmakers. In tender terms, he called them "my fellow co-workers in the Gospel. Together with Paul, they made a powerful missionary team. No doubt they learned from each other.
Even the brilliant scripture scholar Apollos could not help but be impressed with Priscilla and Aquila. Apollos came from Alexandria, the second largest city in the Roman Empire, the city with the greatest library in civilization — 700,000 volumes. This was a place brimming with intellectual ferment. Apollos drank of this knowledge.
On day, the couple heard Apollos preaching eloquently, in the synagogue. He was brilliant and he was bold. But, he also was seriously deficient in his understanding of Christ and faith. This was not surprising. His learning apparently ended with the teaching of John the Baptist. He lacked a fuller understanding of Christ.
Interestingly, Acts tells us that Apollos "knew only the baptism of John." The Greek word used here for "knew" is "epistamenos." It means he had intellectual knowledge, he knew the facts and information. But the word implies that he lacked the deeper dimension of understanding, in this case, of Christ.
Priscilla and Aquila noticed this deficiency immediately. True, the couple may not have been well educated or learned in scholarly ways like Paul. They held no major ministry position, like those of Titus or Timothy. They never even held an official leadership position in the synagague. As far as we know, they never even wrote a book of scripture or preached a sermon. They were content to work behind the scenes in a supportive role. What made them effective was their love of Christ, their deep faith, and their willingness to make their gift available in the service of the early Church. Their gift? They were spiritual mentors.
They took this young man home and with patience and love, they shared with him the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. How long this took, we don’t know. Apollos must have been a humble man, because no doubt he knew that intellectually and academically he was far advanced from this couple. Yet, he was willing to listen and to be taught by them. As a result of this encounter with Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos became a powerful servant of God, whom some in the Corinthian community would even place on a level with Peter and Paul.
In these people, the early Church gives us powerful examples of spiritual mentors and brilliant, but humble preachers. The patient and loving couple, Priscilla and Aquila took a sincere man with a love of knowledge, and led him to a love of God. Apollos, a towering intellect, who like Paul, saw something special in a humble tent-making couple, sat humbly at their feet to learn the love of God by witnessing their love for one another and for him.
Like them, we are called to make our gifts available — however modest they may seem to us — to share them with the Body of Christ. We are reminded in unmistakable terms, that however knowledgeable and scholarly we may be, we will grow more deeply in the love of God when we have loving spiritual mentors.
Paul understood this best. At the close of his letter to the Romans, he greets 26 people by name. At the top of this list is the ministry team of Priscilla and Aquila, the first great spiritual mentors of the Church — and his.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.