We all come to faith – and almost anything in life – in different ways. For some faith is a stumbling toward God that is motivated by internal promptings and inexplicable knowing. For others the path is immediately clear and grasped in a fullness that is never let go. Some of us inherit our religion from our family line and others try on different denominations and/or practices to see what fits.
Peter and Paul, probably the best known characters (in every sense of that word) in the Christian Scriptures and Tradition, had very different early lives and faith experiences. Peter, the fisherman, was the impulsive, “jump right in” kind of guy who often had to retrace his steps in repentance. His heart was large and loving, however, and the time he spent in the company of Jesus prepared him to endure everything that came after with a passion that served him to and through his horrific death.
Paul was a Roman citizen, a fact that sources say implies that he was moderately well-off, and which granted him a certain respect wherever he went in the Empire. Unlike Peter, Paul never met Jesus so didn’t have the advantage of experiencing the personal charisma and teaching that had so convinced Peter that Jesus was the true Messiah. In fact, Paul spent time persecuting people like Peter so, like us, his conversion had to take place through the agency of others. Unlike most of us, however, the Scriptures tell us a fantastical story of Paul’s conversion that was so complex it would have been difficult to ignore – or to allow Paul to return to his former life. (see ACTS 9:1-19)
The stories in the Acts of the Apostles chronicle the ministry of these two Christian giants as they traveled and facilitated the spread of Christianity in the known world. Today the Church celebrates one feast to honor both of them. How might we honor these two men whose paths to greatness were diverse but converged to provide a foundation in the earliest days of the Christian era? Perhaps we ought to examine our own willingness to commit to our calling. How authentic is our living in the everyday journey that we walk? Are there moments of recognition that strengthen us for fidelity to our life purpose? Do we share what we come to know for the good of others? Can we hear the testimony of prophets and judge truth, regardless of the personality that delivers the message? Many questions…to be answered by each of us out of our own personal experience and belief.