Homily for the Tuesday of the First Week of of Advent, Feast of the Apostle, St. Andrew, 30 November 2021, Mt 4:18-22
The apostle whose feast we celebrate today had a special kind of expertise. He was good at finding good people for Jesus. You know, this is one kind of gift that we also need in Church and in society: the capacity not just to do things well ourselves but also the ability to identify people who might be able to do things even better than we can.
In management I think this is related to what they call the need for a “mapping out available resources around you”, both human and material resources, and knowing when and how to tap their potentials to the maximum. I’d say this was the kind of contribution that Andrew made to the company of apostles.
The Gospel for today’s feast unfortunately does not reflect this very much. Matthew is simply identifying Andrew as the younger brother of Simon, son of Jonah, whom Jesus nicknamed Rocky or Peter. Not even Mark nor Luke seemed to know very much about Andrew. They all basically put him in the second billing next to Peter in the list of apostles. He is always second in the citing of the two sons of Jonah in Jesus’ company. It’s always Peter and Andrew, never Andrew and Peter.
Not so in the Gospel of John. There we have enough information about the special expertise of Andrew in three important passages: the call of the first disciples in John chapter 1, the feeding of the five thousand in John chapter 6, and the story about the Gentiles who were looking for Jesus in John chapter 12. In all three instances, Andrew is endorsing some people to Jesus.
Have you ever had classmates in school who were good at volunteering other people for certain tasks? Sometimes the teacher would say, “Class, I need a volunteer to serve as treasurer.” And a classmate would point at you and say, “Ma’am, he is good in Math and experienced in accounting.” That’s the kind of role that Andrew plays well in the Gospel of John.
I imagine Jesus saying, “I need a guy who can serve as your team leader.” And Andrew says, “Why not my brother, Simon?” And he brings his brother to Jesus. Or Jesus says, “We have to feed these people, can you find us someone who can share some food?” And Andrew says, “There’s a boy here with 5 loaves and two fish…” Or Jesus says, we have to find people who can help us enter some Gentile territories so we can preach the good news there also. And Andrew says, “There is a group of Gentiles here looking for you. They might be of help.”
It is only in John’s Gospel that we learn that Andrew had already been in the company of Jesus before Jesus even met Simon Peter. The writer of the fourth Gospel identifies him as originally a disciple of John the Baptist before he became a follower of Jesus. Only the fourth Gospel has that scene where John the Baptist is presenting Jesus to his own disciples as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
I interpret that to mean that John the Baptist was already preparing a prospective successor to his leadership in his company. He wanted to make sure that he chose someone who would sustain his prophetic mission, in case he got arrested or even executed by the authorities. And Andrew was among the very first from the Baptist’s group who followed Jesus. And afterwards, his first move was to seek his brother Simon to join the company.
In the CBCP, we recently decided to establish a research department to be headed by someone with the special gift or expertise of Andrew. Someone who could help us in identifying our existing resources in the Church in every possible field of endeavor or discipline. He should be able to help us find the right resource persons who could enlighten us about current issues.
As we honor this great but low-key apostle, Andrew, perhaps we can also identify for the Church and for Philippine society the kind of people who can contribute Andrew’s kind of expertise.