Peter and John
I am referring to the two apostles, St. Peter and St. John. The former was much older than the latter who, tradition says, was practically a lad only at the time of Christ. They both can represent the tension that usually arises between two different generations, a phenomenon that we continue to observe especially nowadays when the differences between the old and the young are sharper and plentier.
In that gospel episode, for example, where Mary Magdalene reported to them that the tomb of Christ was found empty, the reaction of both of them, while the same in substance, was different in manner. (cfr. Jn 20,1-18)
Both immediately ran to the tomb, but St. John, being the younger fellow, ran faster and arrived at the tomb ahead of St. Peter. But to the credit of St. John, he stopped at the opening of the tomb and waited for St. Peter before both entered to inspect the empty tomb.
This part of the gospel somehow tells us that the young people can know more things than the older people, but it is the older people that know things better and more deeply than the young ones.
This reminds me of that part of the song “What a Wonderful World,” where it says, “I hear babies cry / I watch them grow / they’ll learn much more / than I’ll ever know.” Said in another way, the young ones are like the ice skiers who can cover a long distance on ice, while the old ones are like the divers, who may confine themselves in a small area, but they go deep under the water.
Of course, that’s not a strict description of how the old and the young behave. But what is important is that like St. John and St. Peter, there must be some way of respecting each other and interrelating with each other despite the differences. In fact, the differences, and even the conflicts, should serve as the trigger for such respect and interrelation between the generations, instead of causing division.
Both the old and the young should be allowed to be the way they are, with their distinctive characteristics and qualities. The older generation should respect the younger ones as they are, and the same should be true with the younger generation vis-à-vis, the older generation.
It also has to be said that it is usually the older generation that has greater capacity to understand the younger ones, than the other way around. That’s simply because the older people have more experience, have more exposure to life’s drama than the younger ones who may possess more knowledge and skills, especially in the technical side of life. Again this is a general statement that can admit a lot of exceptions.
But the different generations should try to learn from each other, mutually giving their distinctive contribution to each other. The older generation should share their experience with the younger ones, while the younger ones should also share the new, innovative things to which they are more exposed.
While each generation should maintain their distinctive characteristics and identity, without feeling superior or inferior to the others, it should avoid keeping to itself. It should rather learn to reach out also to the others. Otherwise, we would be creating tribes that would fragment society in general and undermine the unity and harmony proper to all of us.
With the fast pace of development nowadays, it is imperative that all of us in the different stages, statuses, and generations in life, learn how to interact with each other, so that we can really achieve the authentic progress that is meant for us.
This will require updating and leveling up our social skills that in the end depends on our vital relationship with God, whose inter-trinitarian life is the original and ultimate model of our intergenerational interactions, or of how we as Peter and John ought to behave toward each other.