Prior to becoming a Christian, Paul had been a highly respected rabbi and was particularly well known for his teaching and debating skills. When it came to philosophical argumentation, it would seem that Paul was in a class by himself.
It is clear from his letters that he experienced frustration, as his talents seemed to fail him when it came to convincing many of his fellow Jews of the validity of the Christian message. In spite of his best efforts there remained large numbers of steadfast unbelievers.
At length, as reflected in our second reading, Paul came to the conclusion that whilst some unbelief could be explained by pride, selfishness and other common vices, the basic reason for the belief of one and the unbelief of another is that, though God, sooner or later reveals himself to all of us; when, where and how is entirely up to Him. Paul, above all others, was in a position to know this.
Another who came to understand this was Peter. It was not that he was brighter than the rest of the Apostles. Indeed there are indications to the contrary. For reasons that he would never know, he was chosen and given that special insight, that extraordinary level of conviction. Why did he proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God? Because he knew this to be true. How did he know this before his brother and the others? Only God knows that.
As Jesus himself said: Peter was blessed. He did not simply reap the rewards of his attentiveness or even of his goodness. He was blessed and with that blessing there came, as always, responsibility. His gift of Faith was not just for himself but for the good of others. This was made more explicit when Jesus placed him at the head of His Church …giving him the authority to govern according to the teachings of Jesus. He was to be the ROCK …the solid foundation of a community of loving service that would, in spite of the twisted values of some of its members, last beyond this world.
Neither Peter nor Paul was deprived of his free will. Had they been so inclined they would have rationalized their way out of accepting this gift with its consequent responsibilities.
As with Peter and Paul, so too with us, for Faith to take root and survive, we must be open to truth no matter how disturbing and to goodness, no matter how demanding. Both Peter and Paul made radical changes to their priorities as well as to their life-styles and, in the end, they gave their lives in witness to that Faith which you and I share with them. They did what they did, not to appease a cruel demanding God nor to feed their own distorted egos. They did it so that others would seek out the reality which inspired such selfless dedication.
Value the gift of Faith that you have received from God, and, above all, let it make a Difference.