Today's first reading is about Peter. Today's second reading is about Paul. Two more different people could not be found in the church community of their time. Peter was a self-taught fisherman, no stranger to making mistakes. He was spontaneous, lived by his instinct and followed Jesus from his heart. Paul was a highly educated, logical-thinking Pharisee, cultured, argumentative, expecting perfection of himself and others. If these two had shared a meal, Peter would have slurped his food and belched loudly when the meal was over. Paul would have used the proper fork for the proper food and announced to whether the table wine was excellent or of poor quality. A friendship between them was not very likely.
Yet these men became the two pillars of the early Christian communities. Both were Jews who became fervent followers of Jesus. Today's readings record some of the immense sufferings each endured for their steadfastness in the face of pain, prison and deprivation. Both gave their hearts and their energies to the spreading of the Gospel : the "Good News" of God's great love for us all. Ultimately, both died in Rome as martyrs to the faith they shared and served so differently, yet so well.
What do we learn from this? Today's Gospel gives us an answer. Jesus is a rabboni, a master-teacher. A master teacher, a rabboni, asks questions, ones that make us think. "How about you?" Jesus asks. "Who do you say I am?" Peter's answer comes surprisingly quickly : a high moment in the life of this bumbling fisherman! : "You are the Christ, the anointed One of God."
Now if you and I today can honestly give Jesus the same answer: "You are the anointed One, you are the One sent us by God to show the way to peace and justice," then we too are true disciples with Peter & Paul. Of course our actions must back our words. Whatever challenges, heartbreaks and disappointments we face, we know others have been there before us. Peter broke out of prison with the help of an angel sent by the Master. Paul was "snatched from the jaws of the lion" because God was looking after him, keeping him safe. Looking back on our own lives, we may recall the many times God's amazing angels : often in the persons of family members and good friends : snatched us from the lion's jaw and from prisons of our own making!
In the end, it really doesn't matter that Peter and Paul were so different What does matter immensely is that each persevered in faith. In Paul's own words, "This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that's left now is the shouting : God's applause!" It doesn't matter that we're so different either. Some of us are well-educated, some not, some of us are patient, some not, some more logical, some more emotional, some easy-going, some stubborn to a fault, some outgoing, some keeping quietly to ourselves. The thing that matters most is how we respond in word and deed to Jesus' very pointed question: "Who do you say I am?"