St. Andrew’s Vocation and Mission — and Ours, Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle
November 30, 2017
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: 

  • Today as the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Andrew, we can see in his life the summary of the entire liturgical year that is coming to a close in a few days, a reminder of the call to holiness and prepare for the last and most important things on which we ponder throughout November, and on awaiting, serving, following, entering and helping others to enter the Kingdom of Christ the King that we mark this week. There’s so much we can learn from his life that can help us live our Christian lives in the only way they deserve to be lived.
  • St. Andrew was someone who hungered for the Messiah. 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. The same Lord has come into our life. He’s been pointed out by others. We have, with interest, begun to follow him. Then he has called us to be with him and so that he may send us out, as St. Mark summarizes the call of the first apostles. And that call is a continuous one because Christ keeps coming to us. We see in the Gospel today that, after that initial encounter by the Jordan, Andrew returned to Capernaum doing his work as a fisherman, but when Jesus came to find him at his boat and called him to follow him, he left his boats, and his fish, and followed him “immediately.” That’s the promptness that should characterize our discipleship each day.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In order to do this well, we have to be humble. One of the things that I always have appreciated about St. Andrew is that he never complained that of the four called from their boats in Capernaum — Peter, James, John and Andrew — it was only the first three who were closest to Jesus at the major moments of his life. Those were the three closest apostles who went with him when he healed the daughter of Jairus, when he was transfigured, when he wanted someone to accompany him and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. It could have been easy for Andrew to say, if he put his feelings first, his ambitions, himself, “What about me, Jesus?” But he didn’t. It was about Jesus, not him. Similarly, as we see on a couple of occasions in the Gospel, there were apostles who were more walls than bridges, who tried to prevent children from coming to him, who tried to shoo away the Syro-Phoenician woman courageously and perseveringly pestering Jesus to heal her daughter. Andrew was the opposite. He was someone always taking people to Jesus, and we all have a lot to learn and imitate in that.
  • As we conclude this liturgical year and prepare for the next, it’s worthwhile for us to 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?”
  • Today in Myanmar, Pope Francis focused on these words in a beautiful Mass with the Burmese Catholic youth. HE focused on the multiple “unless(es)” St. Paul uses and to find in them a special summons. “Did you listen carefully to the first reading? There Saint Paul repeats three times the word unless. It is a little word, but it asks us to think about our place in God’s plan. In effect, Paul asks three questions, and I want to put them to each of you personally. First, how are people to believe in the Lord unless they have heard about him? Second, how are people to hear about the Lord unless they have a messenger, someone to bring the good news? And third, how can they have a messenger unless one is sent?” (Rom 10:14-15).  would like all of you to think deeply about these questions. … Saint Paul’s first question is: ‘How are people to believe in the Lord unless they have heard about him?’ Our world is full of many sounds, so many distractions, that can drown out God’s voice. If others are to hear and believe in him, they need to find him in people who are authentic. People who know how to listen! That is surely what you want to be! But only the Lord can help you to be genuine, so talk to him in prayer. Learn to hear his voice, quietly speaking in the depths of your heart. … Paul’s second question is: ‘How are they to hear about Jesus without a messenger?’ Here is a great task entrusted in a special way to young people: to be ‘missionary disciples,’ messengers of the good news of Jesus, above all to your contemporaries and friends. Do not be afraid to make a ruckus, to ask questions that make people think! And don’t worry if sometimes you feel that you are few and far between. The Gospel always grows from small beginnings. So make yourselves heard. I want you to shout! But not with your voices. No! I want you to shout with your lives, with your hearts, and in this way to be signs of hope to those who need encouragement, a helping hand to the sick, a welcome smile to the stranger, a kindly support to the lonely. Paul’s last question is: ‘How can people have a messenger unless one is sent?’ At the end of this Mass we will all be sent forth, to take with us the gifts we have received and to share them with others. This can be a little daunting, since we don’t always know where Jesus may be sending us. But he never sends us out without also walking at our side, and always just a little in front, leading us into new and wonderful parts of his kingdom. How does our Lord send Saint Andrew and his brother Simon Peter in today’s Gospel? “Follow me!”, he tells them (Mt 4:19). That is what it means to be sent: to follow Christ, and not to charge ahead on our own!”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • At every Mass we have a chance to recapitulate the calling of St. Andrew. The drama of his vocation and mission began when John the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God, and at every Mass, with same words, the Church’s echoes the Baptist’s indication. We meet  the same Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world whom St. Andrew followed from the Jordan. 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.