“Before Peter, there was Andrew.”
At the beginning of Ordinary Time, our Sunday readings over the next few weeks return to the basics: our call to mission and discipleship. We hear about the missions of great Old Testament figures like Samuel, Jonah, and Moses, and the Gospels recount the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and call of the Apostles.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear about the call of one of my favorite Apostles: St. Andrew.
As we saw last Sunday, John the Baptist is preaching and baptizing, but he is only a preparation. When Jesus arrives on the scene, John makes it clear that He is the one to follow. So two of John’s disciples turn without hesitation to immediately start following Jesus (literally). These disciples are Andrew and likely John the Evangelist, who mentions himself in this Gospel but never by name.
Andrew’s encounter with the Lord spurs him to tell others. The long-awaited Messiah is here, and Andrew’s encounter with Him produced a zeal to share the news. St. Bede notes that Andrew shows us what it means to have “found the Messiah” – both to have a fervent love for him, but also to “care for our brother’s salvation.” If we are truly disciples, we will want to tell others about Whom we follow.
Andrew brings Peter to Jesus. Peter, the one whose name is changed to reflect his new mission. Peter, the one who will become the first among the Apostles (Mt 10:2), the one is chosen to lead the new Church (Mt 16:17-19), the one who is mentioned 191 times throughout the Scriptures (no other Apostles come close). Before Peter, there was Andrew.
Andrew brings others to Jesus. This is something that Andrew does throughout the rest of the Gospel story. In the sixth chapter of John, he brings the boy with five loaves and two fish (Jn 6:8-9). In John 12, he brings the Greeks (John 12:21-22). He seems at times to be Jesus’ public relations man, always connecting people.
We need more Andrews in this world.
Just as John pointed to Jesus, not keeping friends or followers for himself, Andrew brings others to Jesus. It is not about Andrew. It is about Jesus.
Perhaps it would be easy for Andrew to be jealous of Peter. Maybe he was. After all, Andrew is left out of the “inner circle” of Jesus – an inner circle that comprised of the two Zebedee brothers and his own brother Peter! We don’t know why. We don’t know if or how he might have struggled with that throughout his life. But we do know that he continued to bring people to the Messiah. He knew his place and his vocation: to bring others to Christ.
Perhaps Andrew was jealous.But based on what we see of him throughout the Gospels, I think Andrew was remarkably humble, despite the temptations to be hurt. I think of it every time I see his statue in St. Peter’s Basilica. Yes, it is in a prominent place, near the altar. But it is in an enormous basilica named for his brother! The basilica itself might not even be there at all if it was not for him. But that does not bother Andrew now!
In this age of social media, it can be tempting to shine the light on ourselves rather than Jesus. For those of us in Catholic ministry, it is a temptation to promote ourselves rather than the Gospel. Am I cultivating followers of me or of Christ?
As disciples of Jesus, what matters most is not credit or the spotlight, but bringing others to Christ and then allowing Christ to work. There will be some people in our lives that are more successful, more popular, more loved than we are. Some people are blessed with gifts that we are not blessed with, or perhaps it seems others receive the answers to our prayers. There will be times when Jesus seems to be working in someone else’s life and not ours. We must remember that we are not always privy to God’s plan, and discipleship means following him even when we don’t what he’s doing.
What can we tell about a disciple that notices a boy with a few loaves and fish? Andrew was not self-absorbed. Someone who is focused on themselves does not notice a boy with fish. Andrew is always looking outward. He is focused on Jesus and those around them.
I think there would be very few selfies in Andrew’s Instagram stories. This goes hand-in-hand with his humility, of course. As disciples of Jesus, we need to be focusing less on ourselves and more on those around us. What are their needs? Where are they struggling? How can we share in their joys? If we want to spread the Gospel, we need to know the soil.
When the Greeks seek Jesus, they approach Philip, who goes to Andrew (John 12:22). We can imagine the scene – when you want to meet someone famous, you go to someone who knows him or her. It may sound obvious, but to be a disciple of Jesus, you have to know Him. You also have to know him well enough to know how to introduce others to Him.
It is not clear if the Greeks get to meet Jesus. But we see Jesus taking the opportunity to teach the Apostles even more. He is bringing them closer to the mystery of his mission. At this time, these disciples had been with Jesus for three years. They had learned at his feet. They were always learning more, as we see in this passage – they had yet to fully grasp what Jesus’ hour of glory was really going to mean: his death. But they had not left him, even in their confusion (John 6:67).
As disciples, we cannot rest content in our current knowledge of or relationship with Jesus. We must continually open our hearts to understand Him more. It is not enough to know about Him. We must know Him, intimately. Sitting at his feet, we must learn and trust. We must open our hearts to love. And we must be willing to be confused, stretched, and challenged.
In Andrew, we have a model of selfless humility, who knows Christ and lives his whole life bringing others to Him. At the end, this cost Andrew his life. In Andrew, we have a good examination of conscience: how am I using the gifts and experiences God has given me to bring others to Jesus? How am I shifting the focus from myself to Jesus? It is not enough to follow Him. How am I bringing others along with me?
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