Saint Andrew, the Excluded
Homily to the Priory School
Friday, November 30, 2012
Fr. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Andrew, the brother of Peter—Saint Andrew, the Protoclete (protokletos being a Greek nickname meaning Ōfirst-calledĶ). We red about that Ôfirst callÕ in todayÕs gospel. Andrew was the very first of JesusÕ apostles. And yet only John tells us anything about him. Three times he turns up in JohnÕs gospel, and each time, he is leading someone to Jesus.
HereÕs what else we know about him: his name is Greek. This is odd, because, of course, he was a Jew, so youÕd expect his name to be Hebrew; but his parents gave him a Greek name, which tells us that he came from a fairly progressive family. Secondly, in the lists of apostles provided by the various gospels, his name ranks near the top, which tells us that he was particularly important to the group. We also read that he was a disciple of John the Baptist, which tells us he was pretty serious about his faith even before his call, and that he had been looking for answers long before he met Jesus. Andrew was also the one who pointed out the kid with the loaves and fishes: ŌThere is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;Ķ he tells Jesus. So we know he was observant and enterprising. ŌBut what good are these for so many?Ķ he adds. So we also know that Andrew was a realist.
In other words, Saint Andrew the Protoclete was smart, practical, pious, and open-minded—exactly the sort of guy you might pick as a leader. But we also know this: even though he was the first apostle Jesus chose, when it came to picking his circle of closest friends, Jesus left Andrew out. At the raising of Jairus' daughter, at the Transfiguration, at the agony in the garden of Gethsemani, Jesus chose James and John and Peter. Andrew wasnÕt invited along. And to add insult to injury, Jesus chose his brother to be the first pope, even though Andrew was there first.
This had to hurt. Saint Andrew got passed over for promotion, and his brother got the job. Yet we see him again and again leading people to Jesus. If there were hard feelings, he never let them get in the way of his ministry. And maybe this was why Jesus didnÕt invite him into the inner circle. Maybe Jesus knew that Andrew had a talent for recruiting, and that he needed time to do that more than anything else.
It may surprise you to learn—or maybe it wonÕt surprise you to learn that I was unpopular in high school. Summers were okay because of the Beach Patrol, but the school year was pretty much miserable for me. No matter how hard I tried—or perhaps because of how hard I tried—popularity never came my way. On one occasion in particular, I remember I was with this group of kids who decided to go together to a party. They decided to take two cars; but when I arrived at the first car, they told me it was full, and when I turned to get in the second car, the driver hit the gas. So I was left in the parking lot alone—and wound up driving myself to the party. Twenty-five years later, I still remember that moment pretty vividly—how it felt to be left behind. Now, IÕm not saying that this is what Jesus did to Andrew. But it may be that Jesus allowed me that suffering for the same reason that he allowed Saint Andrew his, namely, so that weÕd have something to share with you when the time came.
And maybe the next time you donÕt get played in the game, or you donÕt get chosen for the team, or you donÕt get that girlÕs number at the mixer, or you donÕt get invited to the party, consider the possibility that it may actually be JesusÕ will for you. Consider the possibility that maybe you have a different job to do. That this may be your cross—a cross that Jesus Himself has picked out for you. And then you can say this prayer, which, tradition has it, Saint Andrew said when he was crucified for being a disciple of Jesus:
ŌO glorious Cross, blessed by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. You used to inspire fear. But now, instead, I accept you as a giftÉI come to you, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me, a disciple of the One who was hung upon you....O blessed Cross, take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me." In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.