This weekend I am preaching on two very significant, if not the most significant Christians responsible for the spread of Christianity after the Ascension of Jesus. This weekend we celebrate the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Peter and Paul were both very different characters. Peter was a fisherman in Capernum. He was not a scholar or highly educated man, but he had natural leadership abilities, and in some ways he had what we call today ‘street smarts’. He could think on his feet, assume leadership, and he was totally sincere in his love for God. But, as we see though out the gospels, he was impetuous, stubborn, opinionated, etc.. In other word he was not perfect.
Paul was a gifted scholar schooled in the Jewish faith. And, as a Roman citizen he was schooled in Greek thought, and the Roman culture. He was zealous for the faith of his Jewish ancestors, and abhorred the Jewish Christians. In the Acts of the Apostles we are informed that he was responsible for the death of St. Stephen.
Shortly after the Ascension, he met the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and after this he became a fervent Christian intent on converting the gentiles to Christianity. He was known as a great preacher! He was also, I suspect, a thorn in the side of many Jewish Christians who believed you had to be a Jew first, and then a Christian. He strongly disagreed with many of the first Christians with Jewish roots, and thus the Council of Jerusalem was called in 66AD. Paul won!
Paul, though gifted, talented and filled with faith was not perfect either. In reading the Acts of the Apostles and his letters, one perceives a very fiery, determined, and some what impatient person. Like Peter, he had his weaknesses and imperfections, but he was absolutely (zealously) sincere in his convictions, while humbly and publicly acknowledging his weaknesses. Paul was a man who truly trusted in God’s love and mercy
I guess what inspires me the most about St. Peter, and St. Paul, is God’s ability to work through sincere, generous, and loving hearts that are not perfect. The Bible presents both men in a way that acknowledges their real humanness, even though they were saints. No syrupy lives of the saints for them devoid of all those things that we know to be imperfect and human in all of us, you and I included.
Jesus said it, himself, he came to rescue and save sinners. In his infinite compassion he healed, inspired and comforted. That is what he did, and does today. How reassuring it is to know, that if we are sincere in our faith, and allow Jesus into our hearts, God will work through our gifts, talents, and even our human weakness in bringing hope and salvation to our brothers and sisters in this modern world. This is what he did with Peter, our first Pope, and Paul, the evangelizer to the nations, and does with you and I today. All we need to do is to invite him into our life and into our hearts, and be his followers, his disciples.
Christianity is all about being loved by God, and the joy that comes from knowing and loving God. It is about hope and joy, mercy and forgiveness. God, indeed, is love!