The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle on 30 November
|Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.|
Apostleship is a privilege of love. About those whom Jesus chose to be His apostles it is recorded that “He called those whom He desired and appointed them to be with Him and He trusted them to be sent out with His authority to continue the proclamation of the good news that He started, and to complete His work of salvation.” (Mark 3:13-14) This is an invitation we ourselves may have experienced. What this involves is well explained when we look on the lives of these chosen friends of Jesus. Among the twelve apostles, Andrew has certain unique qualities attributed to his apostleship by the gospel accounts.
“I Have Called You By Name, You Are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1)
From the earliest centuries Andrew was referred to as Prōtoklētos or the ‘First-called’. The gospels describe how Andrew and his friend were standing with John the Baptist when Jesus passed by. In a moment of revelation, the Baptist could see that Jesus was the Promised One sent by the Father to save the world. He pointed Him out to Andrew and the other disciple declaring - “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). On this cue, Andrew and the other disciple immediately followed Jesus. Sensing some keen footsteps shuffling behind Him, Jesus would turn to them and ask them “What do you seek?” A key question that would prove the heart of the disciple. They immediately replied, “Rabbi, where do you stay?” (John 1:38) Seeing that their hearts were set on pilgrimage and were not merely curious, Jesus would invite them to stay with him. This description of the first encounter with Jesus remains very significant because what began seemingly as a mere enquiry and interest led to a bond of friendship and communion. We are told that Andrew and his companion “went where Jesus was staying and they stayed with Him that day.” (John 1:39) In Biblical language, to go and stay with someone indicated loving acceptance and deep trust. This would remain a most momentous event in their lives for every little detail of the day was engraved in their hearts. Several decades later when the gospel was written down, they would still recall even the hour of their meeting. “It was about four in the afternoon.” (John 1:39) This event had a lasting consequence for indeed later when the Lord formally appointed the twelve disciples, Andrew was one of them.
During the public ministry of Jesus, the twelve disciples had a special access to Jesus and in the early Church they took up a determining role. The call they received from Jesus gave them the responsibility to be the pillars of the new people of God. Israel, the people of the old covenant comprised the twelve tribes. The Church - the new people of God - was built on the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus. As Jesus said, “You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) Thus they were assigned a special role of authority in the early Church, moulding the destiny of the people of God.
Looking at the apostles, we feel the assurance given by Jesus “I will not leave you orphans.” (John 14:18) He has not left His people uncared for or at the mercy of any selfish individual to let His people go astray. A clear structure of authority was put in place after having opened His heart to them - “All that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) The shepherding of the apostles has given the Church a stability through the centuries. One can say that when God was looking out for those after His own heart, the first one to be spotted was St. Andrew, the First Called.
“I Will Make You Fishers Of Men” (Matthew 4:19)
Andrew was not only the first called but also the first missionary to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah. In the very first meeting with Jesus, Andrew immediately recognised Jesus as the Saviour and hastened to declare this to his brother Simon Peter “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41) Andrew received this understanding from his master John the Baptist who introduced Jesus to everyone as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) This title has its roots in Jewish tradition. It was for them a synonym for the awaited Saviour who would become a sin offering and take on their burden of sins. Hence when Andrew met Jesus, it was for him a precious encounter with the Saviour of humankind. He could not contain the joy and rushes to share it with his brother.
In the gospel account, there is a remarkable element about the call and response of Andrew. When Jesus met him along with his brother Simon at the shores of Galilee, the Lord gave them the promise - “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Being a seasoned fisherman from Bethsaida, he took this role to heart. He knew that it involved a mission to gain people for the kingdom of God. Whenever he came to Jesus, he always brought someone with him to experience the salvation that he himself had touched in Jesus.
After having brought his brother Simon to Jesus, Andrew was all the time on the lookout to bring more people to Jesus. In an hour of need, when the multitude listening to Jesus at the end of the day were tired and hungry and the Lord wanted to give them something to eat, Andrew brought to Him a boy who had five loaves and two fishes (John 6:8-9). This initiative paved the way for the great miracle of the multiplication of loaves. The disciples, being hungry themselves,s showed their helplessness by saying that what Jesus had in mind was an impossible task. They murmured to Jesus, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5) However Andrew took the desire of Jesus as a command and in his search, he found a boy who had something to offer.
Andrew finds mention in the gospels again at a significant moment heralding the days of the Passion when the Greeks came to see Jesus (John 12:20-22). They had approached Philip for this purpose. Philip brought the matter to Andrew who ushered them to meet Jesus. This encounter of the Greeks with Jesus became a moment of revelation on the universal mission of Jesus. Jesus said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32) The phrase “drawing all men” is a significant revelation because Jesus made it clear that His salvific activity was not to be restricted to the Jewish race but to the entire humankind. Andrew proved to be a powerful instrument in drawing people unto the Lord.
"Take Away The Stone" (Jn 11:39)
Andrew was such a man of initiative because of his genuine and lively faith. He shows us how to trust in the miraculous powers of Jesus - especially in our moments of helplessness and weakness. Importantly, he reveals that this trust should not amount to an irresponsible attitude of passive waiting for God to do everything. Definitely our salvation is a free gift of God. It is God who takes the initiative to save us and to provide for us in the hour of need. It was Jesus who saw the exhaustion and hunger in the multitudes gathered around Him and He made the decision to feed them for He had compassion on them. However, He waited for the disciples to rise up to their role as co-workers in the mission, for He had chosen them to collaborate with Him for the purpose of ushering in salvation. Andrew seems to have understood this sacred dynamics of interaction between God and man in the salvation of the world. That understanding led Andrew to go in search of something he could offer for God to act upon. Jesus respecting this effort accepted the offer, and in His infinite power turned it to food for the multitude. In fact Jesus would turn to the disciples to work out the solution “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He wants and waits for our responsible cooperation when He intends to act on us and through us on others.
The gospel records how when Martha complained that Jesus had been late in coming to save her family, Jesus challenged her to respond in faith by accomplishing two duties. Firstly He invited her to trust in Him and wait for God’s glory to be revealed through Him: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” (John 11:40) Martha whole-heartedly put her confidence of faith in Jesus. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 11:27) Jesus then leads her to the tomb and to the second challenge: to roll away the stone sealing the entrance of the tomb. Here Martha is reluctant for she knew all that must come out would be the strong stench of the dead body. Jesus prevailed on her to act on her faith. Clearly Jesus waits for Martha to play her role in His mission of saving the family.
We find this sacred dynamics of man-God interaction even in the first miracle of Jesus at Cana. Jesus commands the family to fill the jars with water. In fact these were jars meant for the ceremonial washing and were put away after all the guests had washed their feet and sat for the banquet. The water and the jars were not relevant anymore for the celebration of the marriage. Jesus wanted the family to step out in faith and fill the jars with water. He then commanded them to serve from the jars. They obeyed though this command was against any all human reasoning. Only when the command was obeyed was Jesus able to do the miracle of turning the water to wine. The family was restored to celebration.
Jesus sees a paralyzed man lying by the pool of Bethzatha, hopeless and abandoned for 38 years (John Chapter 5). Jesus had compassion on him and wanted to heal him. Yet what the Lord would first do was to ask the sick man if he wanted a healing. In his human logic the paralytic reasoned that this was impossible as he could not rush into the stirred waters, assuming this was the only way to healing. And despair had gripped him. Dismissing his reasoning, Jesus instead offers him a future by asking him to “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” (John 5:9) This was a challenge indeed to rise above his human reasoning and act on Divine command. When he obeyed, he could feel strength radiate through his limbs. He walked into his future in faith.
"Here Am I! Send Me." (Isaiah 6:8)
A person who believes in God should wait upon God as Isaiah did in the temple. Then was he sent out to do what God desired. Isaiah understood the mystery of God’s intervention in human lives and offered himself to go where God wished to work salvation.
“The Lord Is Glorified By The Humble” (Sirach 3:20)
It was at the banks of Jordan while he was still a follower of John the Baptist that Andrew learned the first lessons of discipleship from the Baptist Himself. Introducing Jesus as the Saviour of humankind, John the Baptist concluded “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) In fact the ministry of John the Baptist was so acclaimed and popularly accepted that even the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem had gone to Jordan to enquire if he were the Christ. Indeed many people had thought that he was the Messiah expected by every generation (Luke 3:16). Even the king was in awe of him! His throne was shaken up by the thunderous voice of John calling everyone to repentance. But John was clear about his role as the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord (John 1:23). As soon as the Lord appeared on the scene, he retired to the background and was unceremoniously eliminated in the dark dungeon of Herod’s jail.
This attitude of discipleship engraved in the heart of Andrew made it easy for him to accept the mystery of death and resurrection that Jesus tried to inculcate in the disciples. When Andrew had brought the Greeks to Jesus, he noted the radical teaching of Jesus that suffering was indeed the path to life. It was a revelation about the glory of the cross that by His self-immolation on the cross would humankind be saved. Jesus had explained “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies… it bears much fruit” (John 12:24) This is also where Jesus clarified the pattern of death and life in living Christian discipleship.
While the lesson of discipleship was difficult for his brother to digest as Simon Peter would remonstrate “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22), Andrew could live it out. As we see in the gospel, everyone he brought to Jesus became more prominent than himself. His companion John was favoured as the beloved disciple. His brother Simon whom he introduced to Jesus became the most prominent in the band of the disciples as its leader. Andrew, though the first called did not belong to the inner circle of disciples which included Peter, John and his brother James. This however does not seem to have made Andrew sour rather his heart was opened to accept the cross of his Master generously. Tradition records after being whipped severely, his body was tied to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words - "I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it." He continued to preach for two days from the cross until he gave up his spirit into the Hands of the Lord.
Andrew reveals to us the treasure of apostleship. The trust Jesus placed in him as the first called was honoured by Andrew by his total commitment to his Master. He could abandon all selfish thoughts about himself being on the centre-stage and rejoice in being a fisher of men - bringing people to his Lord. Finally he offered himself on the cross for the mission that his Lord had placed with him. This great disciple reveals to us the sacred lessons and apostleship to be lived out by us who are called to continue the mission of the Lord in our generation.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, we thank You for giving us the gift of St. Andrew to go ahead of us to reveal the noble way of true discipleship. You have called us and trusted us in Your great love to be Your witnesses. Lord may we always treasure this Call and live worthy of it. Lord, fill our hearts with the joy of salvation that we may seek only Your Glory O Lord. We offer all those whom You have called along with us and we thank You for their precious ministry and gifts. We thank You, Lord, for revealing to us through St. Andrew that we need to step out and prove our faith by works. Give us the courage and grace to glorify You that all may be drawn to salvation in You.