St. Andrew’s Yes(es)
by Fr. Ambrose Criste, O.Praem.
Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Sometimes when our Lord calls a man to follow Him, He only needs to call once, and then that man is His forever. We might think of Zacchaeus or St. Matthew. Or maybe there is someone here in the church this morning who once heard the Lord call and then never turned back. St. Andrew, whose feast is here at the very beginning of Advent, received a special and personal call from the Lord not just once, and not even twice, but several times.
St. Andrew’s first call came when he was at the River Jordan with St. John the Baptist, when our Lord began His public ministry. He heard John say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Immediately St. Andrew followed the Lord to see where He was staying, and then Andrew found his brother Simon and led him to Jesus. But this wasn’t the one and only time our Lord called St. Andrew. He and the other disciples returned to their regular lives and to their regular work of fishing. So our Lord came to find him again and called him again. He even climbed into the very boat that belonged to Andrew and Simon, and at the Lord’s bidding they hauled in a huge catch of fish. Once again, St. Andrew responded to this second call by going and getting some more of his friends—James and John, who were in another boat—and they all followed our Lord for a time. And then once again, they returned to their lives and to their work.
So our Lord came to call Andrew for a third time. We heard this third call in the Gospel, and this is the call that motivated St. Andrew to put aside his fishing nets and to follow the Lord as a disciple. Why did the Lord have to call St. Andrew three times instead of just once? It wasn’t because Andrew failed to answer, or failed to answer generously. Quite the contrary, every time he heard the Lord call him, Andrew lived up to his manly name with a manly and courageous answer of “Yes, Lord!” First he went to see where the Lord was staying; he even brought along his brother. Then he followed the Lord’s call to a closer friendship there on the lake; and again he brought along some friends of his own. St. Andrew’s third answer was a resounding Yes! to becoming a disciple and to leaving behind his fishing and his nets and his ordinary life on the lake.
So what does the Lord do after St. Andrew responds positively three times in a row? He calls Andrew a fourth time to an even closer following, to be an apostle. St. Mark reports in the third chapter of his Gospel, “He called those He had chosen for Himself and they came to Him, and He saw to it that they were twelve in number.”
Do you ever wonder why we repeat the cycle of the liturgical year unchanged year after year? Why another season of Advent? Why take up the penance of these weeks of joyful expectation yet again? Why another look at the end of the world even as we prepare for our Lord to come again back at the beginning, back there in Bethlehem? The answer is that, for most of us, the Lord doesn’t call just once, but over and over and over again, as He did for St. Andrew.
He calls us with a word of grace that we read or hear; He calls in someone we meet who shows us His face; He peers out at us through all the details of our life. And then, when we look back at Him, or take even the tiniest step in His direction, He calls again and again, as if summoning us along some unknown path to a destination that He alone knows will be our end and our final, resounding, definitive Yes! “Come,” He says, “let Me show you where I live. “Come, let Me teach you how to be a friend, even how to be My friend.” “Come,” He continues to ask, “and be My disciple. Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” And as we reply, “Yes, Lord. Yes. Show me the way,” He then asks further, “Will you take that next manly step toward a life of holiness? Will you be My priest? Will you give Me your life as a religious? Will you be an apostle? I don’t want to save the world by Myself. I want you to come with Me.”
Every time our Lord called him, St. Andrew answered Yes! He gave our Lord his all not just four times, but over and over again, evangelizing Scythia, then Ethiopia, then Achaia, and Nicaea. Finally he gave his ultimate and definitive yes when he was fixed to an x-shaped cross, where he hung there alive for nearly three days and preached to twenty thousand people. The Golden Legend records that as his life faded into the darkness of death, a dazzling light shone out of heaven and enveloped St. Andrew for the space of half an hour, hiding him from the sight of all those thousands of souls he converted from the pulpit of his cross.
As we take up the penance of this Advent season, may we hear the Lord calling us, even repeatedly. And as these days of November and December grow shorter, may the light of His coming grow stronger as we follow St. Andrew in our own repeated answer of Yes! to the Lord, every time He calls—from the manger, and from the altar, and from the heavens when He comes again in glory. Amen.
The Gospel of John seems almost misplaced for the Easter season…
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