Let's use our imagination this morning. Let's imagine that we have been given the task of profiling suitable candidates to become disciples of Jesus. What traits might we look for in such people? What background and personality profile might we develop?
Today's feast of Saints Peter and Paul surely does not help us develop such a profile. It provides few similarities and many contrasts. Simon (who was renamed Peter) was a constant companion of Jesus for years, while Saul (who was renamed Paul) never even met Jesus during Jesus' lifetime on earth. Simon was relatively uneducated, likely understood only Aramaic. He was a smelly fisherman from a poor town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Saul was well educated in both scripture and history, well traveled, a citizen of Rome and familiar with many languages and cultures. Simon the fisherman often reacted to events suddenly and with little thought, while Saul the tent maker was often cautious and overly deliberate in his thoughts and words.
We know Simon was married, while we think Saul was either a life-long celibate or a widower. Simon's conversion to Jesus was slow and deliberate; it took close to three years, and was a two-steps-forward, one- step-back road to discipleship, while Saul's conversion was immediate and instantaneous. He was literally knocked off his horse! Though Simon's life was relatively uneventful until he met Jesus. Saul at first was openly hostile to the Jewish people who converted to Jesus. Saul considered them traitors to their Jewish faith, so he hunted them down and helped send them to prison before he himself became a convert.
The more we study Peter & Paul, two founding disciples of Christianity, the less able we are to build a common background and personality profile for an effective follower of Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, we too come from many different backgrounds. Yet hopefully we share three common traits: we trust in the Living God, we have big hearts and the capacity to maintain joy in pain and suffering. These are indeed common traits in Peter and Paul.
I remember a report some years ago in which psychologists and social scientists studied in depth the people Jesus originally picked for his twelve apostles. After careful and lengthy research, the report concluded that. strictly from a professional viewpoint, only one apostle among the twelve Jesus had chosen made any sense. That man was Judas Iscariot – Jesus' betrayer! So much for profiling!
Yet there is a lesson here for each of us! As many others, we have been called by Jesus to be his disciples and establish his reign on earth. We are called not because we are the finest, not because we are especially gifted or talented. We are called just as the first twelve were called, as Simon was called to become Peter, as Saul was called to become Paul. We are called to become who we are by the grace and goodness of the Living God. And that, my friends, is all that matters! The profile for discipleship with Jesus is both unique and universal! We all fit the profile if we trust God, have compassionate hearts and maintain joy in adversity! So let's become what we are called to be!