Jesus said to the twelve, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:16-22
Several years ago, my husband and I had the privilege of a private tour of the Scavi below St. Peter's Basilica, where the bones of St. Peter are supposed to be buried. It was damp, close, and dark and I was overwhelmed by the holy and very moist, very human in that place. To me, that is who Peter remains, no matter how we honor him or put him on a pedestal. He was rough hewn, vocal, hot headed and often wrong. But he got love right and knew he was changed forever by the love of God as he knew it through Jesus. Earlier in the week, Archbishop David Moxin took us on a tour of the subterranean jail and house church where Paul spent his final days. It was moving to be in the place where the most changed man in the Gospel story spent his last days. His heart of hate had turned to a heart of love. The living love of God had touched him in such a way that he lived for others and made the church a place of welcome for all.
Last week we celebrated the confession on St. Peter, who go on to be designated as the first Pope and leader of the church. The role did not and cannot define the man. He was, and remained throughout his life, a real, physical, rough and ready human. He was broken and flawed. And God came into the flesh for such as him, for folks just like us. God invites us to see love in the flesh and know that God seeks out the challenged, the broken, the real human condition. Today, we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul. Both, real men with real human challenges and problems. They offer us examples of what it means to live the love that God has given us. May we not forget their humanity in tier sainthood, but rather live to serve as they did, willing to go into rough places and angry mobs and carry the undiluted reality of god's love and presence.
Today I ask God to help me follow in their footsteps, willing to go and be sent. May we take the love we have been given, and live like those early apostles, who not ashamed of their humanity, told their story and gave people hope.