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This past Sunday we read in our Gospel the words of Jesus: “The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”
In talking about this, we discovered that the Lord was appointing first generation assistants, apprentices or disciples, who would continue the work of the Gospel following his resurrection and ascension. Today, we celebrate, Aquila and Priscilla, husband and wife, who were second generation disciples.
Around 40 a.d., Claudius was the Emperor and at that time, disturbances broke out between the Christian-Jews and the nonChristian-Jews over the Messiahship of Jesus. The Roman historian Suetonius, lumping the two groups together, wrote, the Jews “were rioting on account of someone named Chrestus.” Emperor Claudius, caring nothing about the argument, settled it by expelling all the Jews from Rome, two of whom were Aquila and Priscilla. Following the expulsion, they made their way to Corinth (about 750 miles away) where they continued their trade of tent making.
Perhaps because they heard him preach or because they shared the same trade of tent making, Priscilla and Aquila came into contact with Paul and became close companions in the work of the Gospel. Eighteen months later, the three would travel to Ephesus to continue the work of God, and shortly afterwards, Paul would go onto Antioch, but the couple remained in Ephesus. In writing to the Church in Corinth, Paul says in his closing, “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.” In mentioning them by name, Paul demonstrates how great esteem he held them, but also tells us that Priscilla and Aquila had started a church in their home. This would have been the norm, as the church did not begin meeting in church buildings until the third century.
The Acts of the Apostles tell us also of Aquila and Priscilla’s encounter with the Alexandrian Jew, Apollo. “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” So, after hearing him preach, Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Aquila and Priscilla were second generation Christians and through teaching Apollo, they participated in raising up and training the third generation.
President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Replace the word ‘Freedom’ with ‘Christianity’ and you’ll have another truth.
Aquila and Priscilla went back to Rome where they were eventually martyred for the faith, but they did not allow their faith to die with them. They are an example to us of what it means to be an apostolic church, a church that hands on the teachings and practices to the next generation, so that the faith of our fathers and mothers remains the faith of all the generations that follow.
On Sunday, I said that you are the seventy, those that Jesus sent out. Just as easily, I can say that you are Aquilas and Priscillas. Like them, pass on your faith so that the light of the Gospel may continue to shine in this dark world.