Rev. Mr. Roger J. Landry
Domus Sanctae Mariae Guadalupensis, Rome
Feast of St. Andrew
November 30, 1998
Rom 10:8-18; Mt 4:18-22
How fortunate we are to be able to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew on this first day of Advent! St. Andrew often gets neglected among the apostles in terms of devotion, but in many ways, he would be one of the greatest saints for us to meditate upon during this season of Advent and for us to emulate. We can see this quite clearly, I believe, if we reflect for a moment on the events we know of his life.
We first encounter Andrew at the Jordan river astride St. John the Baptist, the fore-runner of the Lord, who was there at the Jordan making straight the paths to receive the Lord. The path to Andrew’s heart and head were straight enough that when John, one day, looked up and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew immediately left John and went and saw where Jesus lived. After only a couple of hours, Andrew recognized Jesus as the Messiah, went to get his brother Simon, told him that he had found the Messiah, and brought Simon to Jesus, who them pronounced him the Rock, Peter. Andrew and Simon Peter then returned to their fishing business in Capernaum, where a short time later, as we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus saw them again and called them from their boats to make them fishers of men. Their response: they immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers. Later we find Andrew bringing both the boy with the five loaves and two fish to the Lord — the raw material for Jesus’ great miracle of the feeding of five-thousand — as well as the Greeks who came seeking Jesus, the event that led Jesus to say that it was time for the Son of Man to be glorified. After Pentecost, Christian tradition says Andrew proclaimed the Gospel in Greece, which led to his martyrdom in Patras, being crucified on an X-shaped cross.
His life teaches us so much about Christian discipleship and apostolate, and gives us a great example during Advent. I’d like to focus on three elements to help us: his time at the Jordan, his bringing others to Christ, and then his preaching of the Gospel even unto death.
We find him first at the Jordan with John the Baptist, making straight the paths of the Lord. During the first two weeks of Advent, the whole Church liturgically stands at the Jordan with John, trying to level whatever obstacles stand in the Lord’s path into our lives. The purpose for this concentration on John the Baptist over the next fortnight is to allow us to be ready to welcome, recognize and follow Jesus, just as Andrew did. When the Lord called him, he immediately left everything. Are we ready to do the same?
Secondly, Andrew’s first instinct was to bring others to the Lord. The first man he brought was his brother Simon. How could he possibly know what the Lord had in store for his brother? His sibling, a simple fisherman like him, was to be made the rock on whom the Lord would build his Church. Who knows what the Lord might do with those we introduce or bring closer to the Lord? God may need us to be the instrument, or the fishing hook, to bring future popes, religious superiors, or saints to him. Likewise, little did Andrew know that bringing the simple boy with fish and bread to the Lord would lead to one of the greatest miracles Jesus ever performed, or that his introducing some Greeks, some non-believers to the Lord, would inaugurate a new stage in the spreading of the Good News. We just never know what can happen when we introduce someone to the Lord. Let us redouble our efforts this Advent to bring each other into closer relationship with the Lord and to bring others.
Lastly, Andrew brought people to the Lord not just by his actions, but by his words as well. 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 northern Greece. It took him two days to die on that Cross, and during those two days, it adds, he preached incessantly to the people. You may not know how people die in crucifiction. They die not because of the literally excruciating pain, but because they can’t breathe. Because of their particular conformation on the cross, they need to move move their whole body 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. But 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.
And so we turn to St. Andrew at this beginning of Advent and ask for his intercession so that it might be a great period of preparation for us. May we be serious about making straight the paths for the Lord, so that when we hear the words “Behold the Lamb of God”, as we will in just a few minutes, we may cling to this Lamb, bring others to Him, and preach Him, with our lives and with our lips, for as long as we have breath! St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr, pray for us!