Acts 12:1-11 / 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18 / Mt 16:13-19
A salesman rang the doorbell at a rather fine suburban home, and the door was answered by a nine-year-old boy who was puffing on a long black cigar! Hiding his amazement, the salesman asked, “Is your mother home?”
The boy took the cigar out of his mouth, flicked the ash on the carpet, and asked, “What do YOU think?”
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That nine-year-old has a long way to go before he’s finished. So do we all. And in the process we get an awful lot of things wrong, before we get them right. The two heroes we celebrate on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul are perfect examples of that.
Peter, the first pope, spent a good part of his life trying to remember that it’s only a closed mouth that gathers no foot! Year in and year out, he talked first and thought later. He promised undying loyalty to Jesus and within hours denied he even knew him. He was on the wrong side of the debate about whether to let non-Jews become Christians! And yet in the end, he was a rock for his fellow Christians to lean on; and he gave his life for them.
Paul, on the other hand, was a perfectionist. He wanted to be perfect, and thought he could be, and his imperfections drove him crazy. So he compensated by attacking other people’s imperfections: And while he was still a Jew, that meant killing Christians! Even after his conversion, he was often a whiner and a self-righteous bore. And yet in the end, he finally let go of playing perfect, and instead let God BE God for him. He learned to relax in the Lord, and IN the Lord he found the strength to do whatever was needed, and that included giving his life.
Heroes aren’t born; they’re made — very slowly, with the help of God’s grace. Today, as we celebrate the triumph of God’s grace in Peter and Paul, we’re also celebrating that we too can become great — each in our own way. And we’re rejecting all those lying fears that keep telling us we’re stuck forever with what we are today, all those fears that tell us even God can’t grow us bigger on the inside, even GOD can’t make us great.
God CAN and God WILL grow us great, if we lay aside fear and let him touch us, let him heal all those places deep within us that are hurt or sick or broken. God can do for us what he did for Peter and for Paul, if we trust him enough to let him in, and if we work with him till the work is truly done.
It’s never too late, so let us begin again. And this time, with God’s help, let’s not stop till we’re done!