Why did God make us all so darn different?! Wouldn’t it be easier if we were more alike? We tend to look at the world as if that were the reality anyway. If you have a problem with lying, you will always wonder if other people are lying. If you love strawberry shortcake you assume everyone loves shortcake. It’s hard to imagine that the thing you love could make someone else gag!
I started thinking about this because we have two very different children in our household and sometimes it’s hard to adjust parenting to accommodate differences. With one child you can say, “Go do this chore”; but with the second child you have to explain and motivate in order to accomplish the same goal. Sigh!
The two saints who are celebrated together on June 29th are like siblings who are very different, so they provide a wonderful example and some guidance. St. Paul and St. Peter were the leaders of the early Church, yet they were so very different–both in body and mind. St. Paul was short; he was not a great speaker and he had some health problems. On the other hand Peter was robust; he is portrayed as having a commanding physique. St. Paul was educated. He was an excellent writer and an intellectual. St. Peter on the other hand was neither well educated, nor a writer. He spoke from the heart and was a recognized leader.
But Peter and Paul had similarities too. They both made big mistakes. Their sins are blazoned across the pages of Sacred Scripture. Paul persecuted the early Church. He held the cloaks for those who were stoning St. Stephen to death and he approved of that action. He participated in efforts to round up Christians and put them in chains.
Before that St. Peter had denied Jesus even though he knew Jesus was the Lord…He denied Jesus not once, but three times. The sins of these two are described in great detail in order to remind us that even big sins can be forgiven. God is merciful. Sin need not be the end. It can be the launching point for a new life. In the teenage lingo that pervades at our house, St. Peter and St. Paul were “just plain stupid” sometimes. It must have been hard for other believers in the early Church to accept these two men who also had big egos to go with their sins. And yet, these two also give us an example of where redemption lies. They were both willing to let Jesus take over their lives. They gave up everything in order to follow Him. They trusted. They had faith. And most of all, they shared JOY. I find that an awesome concept…Here were these two powerful men who were beaten and persecuted. They were thrown in jails that were like dungeons. And yet, they were filled with joy. That’s redemption!
They were lifted up from the worldly tendency to be self absorbed and to feel like a victim. Instead, they offered up their suffering in order to move closer to heaven. Scripture tells us we do not prevail in life through our personal strength of will and body. Instead, when we are humbled, God lifts us up to great heights! So now when I think about the differences in children and the differences in people around me, I am reminded what my husband likes to say: “Learning to appreciate people who are different means learning to live with the fact of stupidity.
I have been stupid. You have too. We are all lowly sinners just trying to find our own way Home. And, with the grace of God we may get there together.” God made an infinite variety among humanity because all these differences reflect the great mystery that is God. He is Incomprehensible unless we open ourselves to Him. Maybe if we could bring every human being into harmony, all working together for holiness, it would be like fitting a puzzle together. We would find out we all have a place of belonging and we are all a part of the same picture. We are a part of the same mirror of the wonder of God. We are One Body, all members in the One Lord!
Although St. Peter didn’t see himself as a writer, here’s a pretty amazing quote from him: “You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection and mutual affection with love”. 2 Peter 1:5-8 God has implanted in us a soul-felt appreciation for Him as He reveals Himself in subtle ways through the people around us. And that is the special message of this feast of St. Peter and St. Paul!