Feast of ST. Andrew the Apostle

Scripture Readings: Rom 10:9-18, Mt 4:18-22         

I shudder at the thought of suffering martyrdom for being a Christian. Down deep, I sigh with relief that it isn’t happening in the United States.  Yet, here in the 21st century, are any of us really safe?  In this world Christians have never been, and never will be, exempt from the cost of giving witness to their faith in Christ. We may escape the red martyrdom of shedding our blood. But there are other, less costly ways of giving witness to Christ: like making a sign of the cross before meals in public places, or wearing a religious habit outside the community, or the Roman collar when traveling. We put on Christ by speaking out for the right to life of unborn children, and by being chaste. St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “… put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). The feast of St. Andrew reminds us that we are called to put on Christ in a thousand little ways by the way we live, and that these are the best preparation for the way we may die.


Feast of ST. Andrew the Apostle

Scripture Readings: Rom 10:9-18, Mt 4:18-22 

St. Andrew was an ordinary fisherman, not trained as a Rabbi or a Levite, nor as a Pharisee or Sadducee.  Yet, this ordinary man who became a disciple of Jesus, then became one of the twelve apostles, later a missionary priest, and finally a martyr.

When we give witness to Christ by the way we live, we will have the courage to give witness by the way we die. There’s a story told by St. Gregory of Tours about the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus who were afraid to be martyrs and yet did not want to renounce their faith during the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius, who said: “Offer sacrifice to idols or die.” Friend betrayed friend, fathers betrayed sons, and daughters betrayed mothers. Seven young men at Ephesus, fearing martyrdom, fled and hid within a hillside cave at the edge of a large pasture. But their hiding place was betrayed and the Emperor ordered the mouth of the cave to be walled up so that they would die of starvation.  It happened that while the cave was being closed they all fell into a deep sleep. A hundred and ninety-six years later, a farmer wanted to use the cave as a shelter for his livestock so he broke down the wall that sealed it. Then, these seven young men woke up from their deep sleep, thinking they were waking up after a single night. Still fearful of being caught, they were astonished to see Churches, and to see crosses mounted on top of the gates of Ephesus. While they slept for almost two hundred years the world as they knew it had converted from paganism to Christianity under a new Emperor, Constantine. Now, two centuries after the death of Emperor Decius, the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus no longer feared to give witness to Christ after being raised from their deep sleep.

By the way, just as St. Andrew is the patron of fishermen, these seven saints of Ephesus are the patrons of those who have trouble falling asleep.  But, be careful, you might not easily wake up!


Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle

[Scripture Readings: Rom 10:9-18; Mt. 4:18-22]

I really enjoy listening to people's vocation stories. Whether their vocation is marriage or religious life, it is fascinating to hear how God calls us. When the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, I was in a movie theater and one of the characters said something that changed the direction of my life. When Larry met Sandy they were ice skating. He told a buddy with him that he was going to marry that girl he'd just seen, but hadn't yet spoken to!

The variety of stories is endless, but the point of today's gospel is not what happened when Harry met Sally or when Peter and Andrew decided what they wanted to be when they grew up. The point is VOCATION: a call from God, a revelation of Himself to a person about that person's purpose.

More particularly, today's gospel is about a person's RESPONSE to that call. For all the variety in how we received our calls, there is only one response that is appropriate to a vocation. That response is an act of unlimited readiness.1

According to Old and New Testament call stories, this readiness consists in availability for everything and anything for which God wishes to use the person; a willingness to go anywhere He might send one; a willingness to be a mere function in the Divine plan. There is no room for reluctance, for the humanly limited.

Unlimited readiness is what Andrew and the others exhibited when Jesus called. “Immediately they dropped their nets … “ It is what Andrew showed when he preached to people for two days while tied to a cross on which he eventually died.

A second characteristic of vocation is given by our first reading from Romans: We are called for the sake of those who are not called. God always calls us to our vocation, marital, monastic, or priestly, for the sake of others. The Greek word for church, ecclesia, means “called out.” Israel was called for the sake of the Gentiles; a small group of Galileans was called for the sake of the whole world.

One of the issues our community identified in preparing for new leadership is how we are to relate to that world in the years ahead. Working in the Guesthouse, I find that what people most seek in pastor's and religious communities is authenticity. We must witness that “way of life” matters because the One it is centered on matters. We do this by our unlimited readiness to give God whatever is asked. This is how we prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And we give what is asked for the sake of others. We relinquish our self-set limits gradually and awkwardly. We call it “growing up.” We call it maturing because unlimited readiness is a union of faith, hope, and love. This is the paschal mystery. This is the Sign of Jonah. This is authenticity.