by Br. Richard Green, O.Carm
We have an occasional series of reflections looking at Saint Jude’s fellow Apostles. This week, I’d like to reflect on Saint Andrew, whose feast day we celebrated a few days ago on 30 November.
When we think about Jesus’ twelve apostles, they fall into two categories. There are the ones that I think of as the “big three”, Peter, James and John. These are the three who Jesus sometimes takes with him, on occasions when the whole group of twelve might be a bit too many, let alone the wider group of all those who were following Jesus and listening to him. These times include such important events as the Transfiguration, and Jesus’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.
When we read the gospels, we learn quite a bit about these three apostles, and get some idea of their personalities.
Then there are other members of the Twelve, who are a bit more mysterious, and who we don’t learn much about – St Jude is one of these. But St Andrew is a bit different. We do learn a bit about him, but we mostly find it out it incidentally, because he is Peter’s brother. The story of how Andrew became a follower of Jesus is one of these occasions, because the writers of the Gospels are clearly focussing on Peter’s role. I’ve recently reread the account of this in John’s Gospel, which I’ll quote here:
The next day John [the Baptist] was standing there again with two of his disciples, when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said.
The two disciples heard him say this and went with Jesus. Jesus turned, saw them following him, and asked, “What are you looking for?”
They answered, “Where do you live, Rabbi?” (This word means “Teacher.”)
“Come and see,” he answered. (It was then about four o'clock in the afternoon.) So they went with him and saw where he lived, and spent the rest of that day with him.
One of them was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. At once he found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” (This word means “Christ.”) Then he took Simon to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “Your name is Simon son of John, but you will be called Cephas.” (This is the same as Peter and means “a rock.”) - John 1. 35-42, GNB
Two of the disciples of John the Baptist follow Jesus, and spend some time with him. We don’t know what they did during that time, but at the end of it, whatever Jesus has done or said during that day has convinced Andrew that he is the Messiah. He then goes and fetches his brother Simon, who also becomes a follower of Jesus, and is renamed as Peter.
We don’t get told anything about Andrew’s life up to this point, but it looks as though Andrew was the sort of person who was waiting or searching for the the Messiah. He didn’t know exactly what the Messiah would be like, but talking to Jesus on that afternoon was enough to convince him that this was what he was looking for.
This attitude of waiting makes it quite appropriate that St Andrew’s feast day always falls around the beginning of Advent. In the earlier stages of Advent, the church’s liturgy focusses on how we are always waiting for Jesus’s return. Just like St Andrew, we are waiting for the Messiah to come. Of course there are differences: we are waiting for Jesus to come again, and so we have a much better idea of what it is that we are awaiting.
What struck me about his passage recently was the way in which we can imagine Andrew’s attitude of waiting. Going about his ordinary business of fishing, living a normal life with Peter and his other relations, but knowing that the Messiah would come, and consciously searching. This is something that I’ll try to take inspiration from this Advent. I’ll try to treat it as a time of living my normal life, but in an atmosphere of expecting Jesus, one where I am searching for Jesus among the people I meet, in my times of prayer, and especially in listening to the Gospels.
Why not find out more about Saint Andrew? We would recommend you read some of these excellent books or articles:
- Reflection on Saint Paul
- Reflection on Saint Philip
- Reflection on Saint John
- Prayer cards for the Twelve Apostles
- A New Hope: Book II (book, with a reflection from Br. Richard)
- The Apostles: 12 Men Who Followed Jesus (book)
- A calendar of Saints (book)
- The Life of Jesus (book)
- The Jerusalem Bible (book)
- Popular Prayers (book)
- Reflection on the Sermon of the Mount (book)
- Gospel of John for Everyone - Part 1 (book)
- Gospel of John for Everyone - Part 2 (book)
Br. Richard is currently based in Aylesford Priory.