In today’s first Mass reading from Acts, we hear of the preaching of Apollos, who is described as “an eloquent speaker” who was an authority on the Scriptures.
Apollos “had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John.”
When Priscilla and Aquila found his preaching wanting, what did they do? Did they immediately denounce him as a heretic? Did they go off and complain among their friends that someone was distorting the faith? Did they just silently stew about his inadequacies?
None of those. Rather “they took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately,” and they encouraged him.
Very early in his Spiritual Exercises, in talking about the mutual respect that must exist between the person giving the Exercises and the retreatant, St. Ignatius makes an observation about what must be true of “every good Christian” – and that is that we always give others the benefit of the doubt. In Ignatius’ words, to “be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. That if there is a way to do so, to adopt a positive way of reading what another says.
Ignatius is calling us to a generosity of spirit in how we deal with each other. A willingness to not assume the worst motive in another or the worst possible reading of what they say and do.
And I think that is what Priscilla and Aquila model here. They come across someone who has not been part of their “in” group, whose preaching doesn’t measure up. And instead of going off and telling everyone what a bad Christian he is or writing him off, they approach him and see how they might help him. And they encourage him on his way.
We would do well to follow Ignatius’ instruction and the modeling of Priscilla and Aquila.