Learning from Andrew How to Live Advent, Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle
November 30, 2016
Rom 10:9-18, Ps 19, Mt 4:18-22

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in this homily: 

  • There’s a particular fittingness to focusing on St. Andrew at the beginning of Advent, because his life illustrates for us very well the fundamental response of Advent, to go out to meet, embrace and follow Christ the Lord when he comes. When Christ came into St. Andrew’s life, he not only went out to meet Christ but brought many others to meet him, too. And so today we can ponder the fundamental Advent dynamism as seen in his life as a disciple and an apostle.
  • St. Andrew was someone who hungered for the Messiah, which is the attitude marking the first Advent. He longed for him. He was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, who was preparing the way for the Messiah, and as soon as the Precursor pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, he who takes away the sins of the world!,” Andrew immediately sought to follow Jesus, along with another disciple of the Baptist who was almost certainly the man who would become St. John the Evangelist, the one who would write down the details of the encounter for us (Jn 1). They would have been terrible private investigators, because even though they were tailing Jesus at a distance, he heard them, turned and said, “What do you seek?” In their nervousness they blurted out, “Where are you staying?” Jesus, inviting them into a dialogue and a relationship, said, “Come and see.” Because it was approaching sundown on the Sabbath — so great was the first impression of that first encounter with Jesus that St. John noted the precise time, “about 4 pm” — they needed to spend about the next 26 hours with him. What a life changing day that was. This illustrates for us a very important point about Advent, that when Christ comes for us in history, mystery and majesty, he comes to call us. Advent has a deeply vocational component. It’s a time for us not just to look to “history,” meaning both not merely to Bethlehem and to our own initial calling, but to mystery and majesty, how the Lord comes each day to us and will come on the clouds at the end, to call us, and we need to be as ready and responsive as we were that first time.
  • The second thing we learn from Andrew is about how the Lord wants to use us as new John the Baptists to facilitate the call of others. As soon as Andrew and John were able to travel again after the completion of the Sabbath, Andrew ran to his brother Simon and announced, “We have found the Messiah!” His fulfilled desire led him to try to bring others to have their same desires filled. And he brought his brother to Jesus because he wanted his brother to experience the same joy. When Simon came with Andrew to meet Jesus, Jesus said something extraordinary, “You are Simon, son of Jonah. You will be called Cephas (Peter, from the word for Rock). Little did Andrew know what Jesus’ plans would have been for his brother, that he would become the rock on whom Jesus would build his Church, the one to whom he would give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. All he did was bring Simon to Jesus and Jesus did the rest. Likewise, we never know when we bring others to Jesus what he will do with them. They may become the next great saint. They may become a future priest or even pope. What we need to concentrate on is simply sharing the joy of our encounter with Christ with others. Christ has come into the world for them as well. Christ’s advent is vocational for them, too.
  • St. Andrew’s introducing St. Peter to Jesus the Messiah is not the only time he facilitated an encounter with Christ who had come. Later on, when Jesus had been teaching the vast crowds for hours, it was getting dark and the people had no food, some of the apostles encouraged Jesus to dismiss the crowd so that they could get something to eat, saying that even 200 days wages would not be enough to feed a multitude of 5000 men not counting women and children (Jn 6). After Jesus told them to give the crowds something to eat, Andrew brought a young boy who had five buns and two fish to Jesus. Jesus took those meager gifts, thanked the Father for them, and miraculously multiplied them in a way that not only the crowd ate to satiation, but they had twelve wicker baskets left over, a tangible reminder for each of the twelve apostles of just what Jesus can do when we bring others and their gifts to him. We, too, should learn the lesson. When we can bring others to Jesus, when we can get them generously to give whatever they have to him, Jesus can multiply those offerings and do tremendous things. Our task, like Andrew, is just to match-make others with the Lord who is constantly coming into the world.
  • The third time Andrew did this matchmaking was when a bunch of Greeks came saying, “We wish to see Jesus!” (Jn 12). Philip brought them to Andrew and Andrew brought them to Jesus. As soon as Jesus got word, he exclaimed, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus immediately shifted gears toward the fulfillment of his Messianic, long-awaited mission, as a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying to bear fruit for our salvation. Little did Andrew know when he was bringing these Greeks to meet Jesus that he would be fulfilling the prophecy announced through Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah that God’s light would be brought to all the nations. He just brought them and the rest, we can say, was salvation history. Likewise we never know what the next stages are in the history of salvation of those we encounter or of the whole world. We just try to bring people to Jesus.
  • As we enter into this powerful liturgical season of Advent, we can ponder our own calling to follow Jesus and our mission to help others to go out to meet Christ who has come likewise for them. Andrew has been called by the Greeks throughout the centuries the protoclete because he was the first one called, but in some ways he was also the proto-apostolos in becoming the first to call others. We are not the first called but just as much as St. Andrew was called so have we been summoned. And just as much as Andrew responded to that encounter by bringing others to Christ, so we’re sent out at the end of the Mass to seek to bring about that encounter between Christ and others, which is the essence of Advent and of human life. Christ seeks to make us “fishers of men” just as he made him. St. Paul words are as relevant today as when he wrote them to the Romans: “How can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?And how can people preach unless they are sent?” Christ sends us, too — and not to do anything against the grain but with it, because when we’ve received Jesus within, we can’t help but share him. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” St. Paul tells us. When we really believe in the core of our being, we cannot restrain ourselves from confessing with our mouth. During this Advent Season, we’re called to proclaim Christ who is coming, calling, saving and sending, seeking to bring others to experience what we have.
  • And this is something that St. Andrew did to the very end of his life. We don’t have any extant letters from him, or homilies. But we do have an ancient account of his martyrdom, in which we can see the way he died and extrapolate from there to how he would have lived. The passio says that he died on a decussate or X-Shaped cross in Achaia, northern Greece. It took him 38 hours to die on that Cross, and during those two days, it adds, he preached incessantly to the people. In crucifixion, people die not because of the literally excruciating pain, but because they can’t breathe. In their particular conformation on the cross, they need to move move their whole body to open up their lungs to get in enough oxygen. Eventually, their strength runs out — which can take anywhere from two hours to two days depending upon how much one is tortured beforehand — and they die by asphyxiation. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for St. Andrew to preach under those circumstances when he could basically barely get enough oxygen to stay alive, not to mention speak. He preached the Gospel not just with words, but by his life and death up until its very end. This ultimate witness on the Cross, his two-day long martyrdom, shows us quite clearly how much he was dying to bring the Good news to others, a truth worth living for until the very end, and a truth worth dying for. He was announcing Christ’s advent in history as he was literally preparing within hours, and minutes, and seconds for his Advent in hidden majesty to call him to himself and give him an imperishable wreath. We’re called to live this Advent with the same focus on Christ’s coming for us, to call us to come and see where he lives at the Father’s side, and to allow us to be fishers of men through our intercession in heaven with the same passion with which we tried to bring others to Christ here on earth.
  • The best way we live out these mysteries is each day here at the altar. The same Lord Jesus who has come in history and will come in majesty comes to us in mystery. This is the same Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world whom St. Andrew followed at St. John the Baptist’s indication. This is the same Jesus who in St. Andrew’s company during the Last Supper took bread and wine into his hands, totally changed them into himself, and gave himself to the apostles saying both, “This is my Body” and “This is the chalice of my Blood,” but also “Do this in memory of me,” and St. Andrew not only celebrated the Mass but imitated Christ’s self-giving love all the way until the end. May we be strengthened by the same Lord Jesus to believe in him fully in our heart, announce him with our lips, follow him wholeheartedly, and bring others to him like Andrew in such a way that others may bless our feet that brings the good news and say about us in centuries to come, “Their message [went] out through all the earth”!

The readings for this Mass were: 

Reading 1
ROM 10:9-18

Brothers and sisters:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
There is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
the same Lord is Lord of all,
enriching all who call upon him.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!
But not everyone has heeded the good news;
for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?
Thus faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
But I ask, did they not hear?
Certainly they did; forTheir voice has gone forth to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (10) The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
or:
R. (John 6:63) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
or:
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
or:
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
or:
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
or:
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Gospel
MT 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
the-martyrdom-of-st-andrew-1682