It is amazing the things God can do with us to bring about his work of salvation. Peter and Paul were two totally different personalities. Paul had an intense and rigid personality. He was strict in his religious observances; he was a student of the law and a keeper of the law. Paul saw the early followers of Jesus as apostates, traitors to their ancient faith. In his enthusiasm he would like to have them wiped off the faith of the earth. Paul brought that same enthusiasm and intensity into his new found life as a follower of Christ. He would say of himself,’ I live now, not I but Christ lives in me……… for me to live is Christ.
Peter and his brother Andrew were successful business men. They made an honest living as fishermen, fishing on the Sea of Galilee but Peter lacked the stability and conviction of Paul. Peter could hot or cold, ‘Even if I had to die for you I would never deny you. Just a few hours later this same Peter swears on an oath, ‘I know not the man.’
Christ used these two different personalities to found the beginnings of his new faith communities. They didn’t always agree on things, they had their differences. Paul withstood Peter to his face when Peter allowed himself to be influenced by Jewish Christian who saw the Gentiles as second class citizens in the church. Two totally different personalities but Christ used them both to bring about the beginning of the Christian community.
Just as Christ used these two different men with their different strengths and weakness to bring about the growth of the early church so Christ can use each one of us, with our strengths and weakness to strengthen the life of the church today.
We have evidence of this in our own time when we are so struck by the warm, welcoming personality of Pope Francis as compared to the almost shy and private personality of Pope Benedict
Everyone knows that the personality of Pope Francis is so different from the personalities of Pope Benedict and John Paul 2. Someone described the differences in this way; Pope John Paul was the heart of the church, Pope Benedict was the brains of the church and Pope Francis is the soul of the church.
The truth of the matter is that Christ can and does use each one of us with our own distinct personalities to complete his work on earth by building up the body of Christ, the church. It could be our business acumen that keeps a parish finances on an even keel. Christ could use our outgoing, generous personality to help in the social and justice works of the church as it works to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, welcome immigrants, visit hospitals and prisons. Christ can use the intellectual gifts with which we are bless to call us to the great vocation of teaching, either in our schools of teaching religious education programs. Christ could use your understanding and compassionate personality so that could be with those who mourn the death of someone they loved or those who mourn the loss of their own health or their independence. There are men and women whose personality tends them toward prayer and silence and so they are called to pray for the needs of the church and the world around them. As St. Paul reminds us ‘there are a variety of gifts and all kinds of services to be done. We just have to be open to God’s nudges and be willing to be available to others.
We are blessed by God with our own individual personalities and talents. In gratitude for this blessing we look into our lives and the way we live it and in thanksgiving for the gift of ourselves we might have the willingness to say, ‘Lord what would you have me do? How can I be of service to the building up of the body of Christ, the Church? How can I take the gifts with which I have been blessed and put them at your service?
Years ago when lay women and men could be Ministers of the Eucharist I asked this guy in the parish if he would be a Eucharistic Minister. He immediately said ‘no’ I’m not worthy. So I said to him I was up all night trying to figure out who was the most unworthy person in the parish and your kept coming up time and again. With that he said, ’I’ll do it.’
Peter and Paul had no idea that one day they would share the same faith that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God, and would work in different ways to share that truth with the world around them. May we too be surprised and open to the possibilities God has in store for us as we try to live our lives as followers of Christ, our Lord and Savior and be willing to use the gifts with which we’ve been blesses to bring the life and love of Christ to those around us.