Through different routes,
they arrived at the same destination.
There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles
commenting on today’s Gospel reading:
With a phrase well known to us—“They were of one heart and soul”—Luke summarizes the full agreement existing in the primitive community (Acts 4:32). Yet, in the history of the church, tensions and contrasts as strong as those that occurred in the early decades are rarely recorded. The Christians of Jewish origin—jealous custodians of their people’s religious customs—demanded that they continue to comply with the requirements of the law, as a sign of loyalty to God. The more open-minded spirits instead were conscious that “the traditions of the ancients” had fulfilled their task (to bring to Christ). Continuing to impose them constituted a serious obstacle to the Gentiles who wished to adhere to the gospel.
Peter—with a conservative upbringing, though not fanatic—tried to mediate between the two groups of the community, but all were a little discontented. Paul—a fanatic traditionalist—had departed from the more rigid positions of the Jewish religion. He had come to a radical break with the past, to the point that he became intolerant of those who—like Peter—had not the courage to make radical choices. A day in Antioch of Syria, he publicly insulted Peter by calling him a hypocrite (Gal 1:11-14).
As a result, relations between the two apostles were restored. Peter, in a letter, calls Paul “our beloved brother” (2 P 3:15). Together they gave their lives to Christ and today we celebrate their feast together. Through different paths—and very slowly—they have come to recognize in Jesus the Messiah of God.
Peter met for the first time the man who was to become his master along the Sea of Galilee. Earlier he identified him as the carpenter from Nazareth. Then he realized that he was a great prophet. Later, in Caesarea Philippi, he finally discovered his true identity. He declared: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:13).
He professed a formula of perfect faith. However, to believe in Christ does not mean to adhere to a pack of truth but to share the life choices that he proposes. The dreams that Peter cultivated was not the Lord’s. “You are thinking not as God—he said—but as people do” (Mk 8:33). He began to understand only in the light of Easter. He timidly confessed his fragile faith: “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17).
Paul has traveled a different path. At first, he considered Jesus as an opponent to fight with, a wrecker of the messianic hopes of Israel, a blasphemer who preached a God different from that of the spiritual leaders of his people. He had known him, “according to the flesh” (2 Cor 5:16), according to the religious, political and social criteria of this world. Based on these parameters, he could not but judge him a criminal, a subversive of the established order, a heretic.
On the road to Damascus, he received the light from above and understood: Jesus, the crucified one, is God’s Messiah. From that moment everything that he considered a profit, he now reckons all as garbage (Phil 3:7-8).
If our experience of faith is less painful than that of the two apostles, whose feast we celebrate today, perhaps it is not equally authentic.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“The roads are different, but all lead to the Lord.”