As the driver approached the busy intersection, the light turned yellow and he stopped even though he might have beaten the light. But the woman tailgating him was furious, honking her horn, screaming in frustration. She was beside herself, angrily cussing him out when she suddenly saw a police officer at her car window. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the station where she was fingerprinted, photographed and put in a holding cell. After an hour or so, the officer approached her and said, "I'm sorry for the mistake, ma'am. You see, I pulled up behind you while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the driver in front of you and cussing a blue streak. Then I noticed your 'What Would Jesus Do?' bumper sticker, your 'Choose Life' license plate holder, and your 'See You in Church' sign on your rear window, so I assumed you had stolen the car."
Just like her, our actions don't always reflect our beliefs. That's true of the two great apostles we honor today, Peter and Paul : two men very different in their experience, background and personality. Peter was married, a local fisherman by trade, a relatively simple, straightforward, uneducated man. Paul was most likely a widower, highly educated, complex, cultured and spoke fluent Greek. Each had his faults! Peter was impertinent and boastful, denied knowing Jesus and fell asleep when Jesus needed him most. Paul was initially a persecutor of Christians, responsible for imprisoning and torturing them. Yet today both are acclaimed saints. Why? Because they didn't stay as they were; they grew in faith and learned to put their faith in action. They persevered in their efforts despite terrible hardships and sufferings.
It's interesting to note that the only recorded encounter between Peter and Paul took place in Jerusalem and it was not exactly a meeting of minds: In the Christian communities, the question had arisen: Should newly baptized Gentile converts to Christ have to observe the same purity rituals that Jewish converts were observing? Peter claimed the newly baptized Gentiles should observe the Jewish rituals but Paul argued that Jesus freed us from such observances. Paul won the point, much to the applause of farmers then and now who raise pigs! So it was that in time Peter the Blowhard became Peter the Rock for all Jewish Christians in and around Jerusalem while Paul the Persecutor became the champion of Gentile Christians elsewhere. Each overcame his faults and aligned his actions with his beliefs.
What about us? Are we like the woman the police officer stops because her behavior contradicts her belief? How well do we handle the difficulties life throws our way? How enthusiastic are we to live joyfully the Gospel's Good News? How long is it taking us to become the peacemakers, the justice seekers, the forgiving and compassionate people Jesus calls us to be? Peter and Paul were willing to die for their belief in Jesus. Would we be so willing? We may never have our own feast day, but we are all called to behave as we believe. We are all called to be people of integrity!