Paul was certainly that larger than life figure who through his powerful preaching and many missionary journeys became known as the Apostle of the Gentiles. But this passage in Acts reminds us the Holy Spirit was using others to spread the gospel. Priscilla and Aquila, early converts of Paul, left Corinth with him to visit the community already established in Ephesus. When Paul left to visit other communities he left them there to support the Ephesian disciples. Apollos of Alexandria appears out of nowhere. He is depicted as learned in the scriptures and an eloquent preacher. We realize a surprising fact. Apollos had been instructed in the Way of Lord! He taught accurately about Jesus! This means the Holy Spirit was operating outside the Church. Already in Jewish communities in the Diaspora the teaching of Jesus were known and he was recognized as a Prophet and maybe even as Messiah! Apollos knew only the baptism of John, a baptism of repentance.
Priscilla and Aquila open to him the fullness of revelation. Jesus is Son of God and giver of the Holy Spirit. Apollos then goes to Corinth and becomes a leader in that faith community. 1 Corinthians, chapters 3 and 4 underline the greatness of the missionary Apollos.
For us today this passage from Acts reminds us that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world and not just in the Church, the community of the baptized. He is at work in the hearts of Jews, Hindus and Muslims and any person of good will. Grace can be found everywhere! We have hope because when Jesus returned to his Father he poured his Spirit out upon the human family.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.