Feast of St Andrew – Matthew 4:18-22
St. Andrew was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, a fisherman by trade, and a former disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew was at John’s side when Jesus, whom John had recently baptized walked by. “Look, here is the Lamb of God,” John exclaimed (Jn 1:36). Andrew, together with his more famous brother Peter, whom he introduced to Jesus, is the first to be called by Jesus to follow him. It is for this reason he is called the Protoklete or “first called” apostle. Interestingly, while he is overshadowed by his brother Peter he continues to be the one who introduces souls to Christ. After Pentecost, Andrew took up the apostolate on a much wider scale, and is said to have been martyred at Patras in southern Greece on a cross which was in the form of an “X”. This type of cross has long been known as “St. Andrew’s cross.”
The name Andrew is related to the Greek word for “man” (Aner, or, in the genitive, Andros). It originally meant something like “manly”. It is interesting that Andrew’s name is of Greek origin, not Aramaic or Hebrew. This is indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family. The fact that their father, Jonah (or Jonas) gave his elder son Simon, an Aramaic name and his younger son Andrew, a Greek name reflects the mixed Jewish-Gentile environment of Galilee.
In today’s Gospel we hear St Matthew’s version of the calling of the first four disciples. Andrew and Peter were casting their nets into the sea while James and John were mending their nets. Both the sets of brothers “immediately” left their nets, boats and father and followed him. The word in Greek for ‘follow me’ is akoloutheo which translates as accompany or assist. It is from this word that we get the English word acolyte. It is they who are called to assist in teaching the word with Jesus. They become the ‘minsters of the word’ in Matthew chapter 5-7 and then again the ‘ministers of the deed’ in chapters 8-9.
Peter, Andrew, James and John set a wonderful example of readiness; there is no “shortly”, “maybe tomorrow”, “I’m busy just now”. The disciples were apparently inspired by the mission and made radical commitments to the movement. The Roman empire relied on threat, coercion and enticements to recruit people into its military. The new kingdom, on the other hand, inspires them to participate in it. Perhaps what we need to ask ourselves is what nets do I need to leave in order to follow Jesus wholeheartedly? What obstacles, what material attachments, what comfort zones have wound themselves so tightly around me that I cannot get up and follow him?
It would do well for us to remember that the calling of Jesus is rooted in God, not in us. Jesus chose them and he chooses us. It may well happen that we can be self-absorbed; that we think that everything begins and ends with us. This calling is very significant, so much so that towards the end of their three years together, as he prepares them to go forth after his death and resurrection, he reminds them (John 15:16) “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”. The calling of Jesus, rooted in God, originates in God, emanates from God. It’s HIS initiative and his choice. It is also very comforting for us to know that Jesus calls simple men like these. They were not super-duper saints and that gives us hope that he may even be able to use a person like you. The important thing is for us to give ourselves to Him.
This narrative of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent because Advent must be a time when Jesus calls us anew. It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us. As Advent begins, we should hear Jesus’ call to us, “follow me” We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose.