Last month (I know I’m a little behind!) we celebrated the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul, whose impact on the Church is unmatched.
Peter was a fisherman by trade, a simple man lacking a theological education. The accounts of him in the Scripture show him to be somewhat impetuous and lacking a filter between brain and mouth on occasion. At times clueless and cowardly, still Peter earned great trust from Jesus. Peter was nothing if not loyal and became an inspiring preacher and leader in the early days of the Church. Notice the difference between the man who cowered when Jesus was arrested and the man who boldly preached the Good News of Jesus in the second chapter of Acts.
Paul was a highly trained theologian and philosopher who studied under one of the great rabbis of his time, Gamaliel. His intellectual sophistication was matched by his passion. In fact, Paul was so zealous about his faith that he regrettably participated in persecuting Christians because they believed Jesus was the Messiah. Paul was blinded by his zeal, so the Lord stopped him in his tracks and literally blinded him. Jesus needed a guy like this – someone who could help the Church unpack the beauty of Jesus and His teachings as the fulfillment of the First Covenant, someone who would have the missionary drive to start churches, someone who would complement ‘the rock’ on whom Jesus built His Church.
If at any point you get down about disputes in the Church, just remember that these two great leaders butted heads on occasion – most famously in Antioch where Paul opposed Peter “to his face because he clearly was wrong” about refusing to eat with Gentile converts who were not circumcised. (Galatians 2.11)
We will always have disputes in the Church, but we trust in the Spirit of God to move in and through all of us in our diversity of strengths and gifts just like He did with Saints Peter and Paul. But at the end of the day, we are united under one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. And on the feast day of these great men, we remember that both were martyred for that, not because of their disagreements.