Nov 30 – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
St. Andrew was the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was a fisherman by trade, and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross, and is said to have preached for two days from it.
- Patron Saint Index
So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ.
St Andrew the Apostle. Who is he? I admit, all I could think of were Prince William, Scotland, and golf courses, for some reason. Today’s short gospel passage mentions Andrew along with his famous brother Simon Peter, as well as another two brothers — James and John — as the first four disciples called. I googled St Andrew, but found little about him other than an interesting tidbit about him being a follower of John the Baptist. Hang on a minute; follower of whom? Well apparently, Andrew was already a follower of John the Baptist when he met Jesus, and he was, among the four, the actual first one to follow Jesus, who brought his brother Simon Peter into the fold by telling him that they had found the Messiah (John 1: 40-43). Yes, Andrew was the first apostle to recognise Jesus as the Messiah and follow him. So why is he not in the limelight the way Peter, John and Mary Magdalene were? I don’t know, but perhaps it does not matter. What matters in these few mentions of St Andrew were his responses, which reveal his faith. From these little snippets we read about him, we have much to learn.
The Lord calls us. This much is clear. In the gospel, Jesus called, and the four men followed. Of course, reading about four people being called (and who were siblings to boot), my brain went straight to Narnia. One of the main plot devices in the Narnia series was one of being called or summoned by Aslan from our earthly world, into the world of Narnia (one could also stumble accidentally into Narnia via a portal type of place). Of all these instances of being called, one stood out to me — in The Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill tried calling out to Aslan, and when they were finally in Narnia, Aslan said that they “would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you”.
It is safe to say that God is always calling to us to draw us nearer to Him. And we do have such an inkling every now and again. We do not have a problem with hearing God’s call. What we have a problem with is our response to that call. Do we shut it down, or tell ourselves that we need to pray about it more (i.e., stall for time)? Or do we jump into action, like Andrew did, and lead others along as well?
In Narnia’s Prince Caspian, we are shown different types of responses to being called, and they all show different degrees of faith at play. Starting with Lucy Pevensie, who embodies pure faith, she shows us the immense courage and perseverance required to follow without question when being called. Lucy withstood a great deal of doubt from her older siblings and companions, withstood ridicule, and even had to abandon her course of following Aslan when High King Peter decided against her suggestion. In the end, it turned out she was right. But did she gloat? She never did. She was, in fact, elated that the others also finally saw what she saw. Here is faith and grace in action.
Next, we have the faithful but realistic ones. It is not wrong to be careful, to seek clarification, to want to test out a hypothesis. Even St Andrew asked for a sign when Jesus started talking about the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:4). High King Peter was hesitant about a plan he thought was foolish, and which he did not quite believe was real. Mind, he believed in Aslan, just not that Aslan wanted them to follow Lucy over treacherous terrain in the middle of the night. He recognised his own failure to trust, sought forgiveness, and was forgiven.
We also have those who do not believe, and yet are somewhat obedient to the call nonetheless. Prince Caspian grew up being taught that Aslan and all the talking beasts and magical folk were nonsensical fairy tales. But deep inside, he wanted it to be real. Then, in a space of one night, he came to find that it was indeed all real. He was rightfully terrified and excited. He bravely did what he was requested to do, and kept on doing his best despite some failures along the way. When we have the truth heaped on us all at once, can we find it in ourselves to follow where it leads, or will we run away out of fear?
Then we have the fearful. Susan was whining and complaining the entire time the group was trekking to find Aslan. This sounds rather familiar. We tend to moan about all the possible difficulties and setbacks we might encounter when faced with something we do not particularly want to do. Take, for example, when our plans do not go as we intended to. When we are asked to make a career switch, or even to give up our careers. When we are asked to uproot and move halfway across the world. When we are told we are not getting married — we are going to join a religious order. When tragedy strikes. When we lose people we love. We refuse to accept it and fight it hard to stay our original course, insisting that we can work things out on our own terms. Yes, of course we are able to do that. But what if God’s plan is better? Susan realised that she had listened to and gave in to her fears, and as she was strengthened by Aslan’s presence; we too should be strengthened by God’s closeness to us.
Finally we have the ones who never believed, and despite having the truth presented right before them, still refuse to see or hear. In The Last Battle, some dwarfs just simply would not see the beautiful meadow they were in, and refused to taste the feast laid before them. They told themselves they were in a dark and dingy barn, eating mud and dirt and drinking soiled water. And they came to believe and live this reality they made up for themselves. For these people, there is little we can do except continue to proclaim the Truth. Only God can turn their hearts.
Other than our responses, we also have responsibilities. In today’s reading from Romans, St Paul writes about preachers who are sent to proclaim the good news so that others may hear. I think he may be referring to us — followers of Christ. We are these preachers who are being sent. What this means is, we have to be influencers. Andrew was initially a follower of John the Baptist, and John was such a great influencer that Andrew came to recognise the Messiah almost immediately, and then went on to tell his brother about it.
As followers of Christ we have a huge responsibility, like it or not. There are people around us who hesitate, who fear and doubt, who want to believe but are still unsure, who downright disagree and mock. It is our responsibility to respond in the right way when the Lord calls, and through this, we also respond to the questions from these people around us. We have a duty to proclaim the truth and the real Jesus to others.
Responses and responsibilities. These two feed into each other. Our responsibilities should guide our responses, and our responses help determine if we can fulfil our responsibilities as followers of Christ.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)
Prayer: Dear Lord, You are always calling to us, and yet sometimes we ignore You. Teach us to be more like St Andrew, to put our faith and trust in You, to follow you without fear. Teach us also to be like St John the Baptist, who reflected the truth of You so well that he brought others to You. Many are searching, Lord. May we lead them to You.
Thanksgiving: We thank You, Father, for the many good preachers and shepherds we have leading us, guiding us, protecting us. We thank You for giving them the love, strength, and courage to proclaim your truth tirelessly, even when some do not listen. We thank You, Father, for Your love for us.