30th November – St Andrew
On this feast of St Andrew, the Church presents to us St Matthew’s account of the calling of the first disciples, an account which by its very briefness emphasises the radical nature of that call and of the response of Jesus’ first followers. Jesus sees Peter and Andrew at their work as fishermen, tells them to follow him and become fishers of men instead, and, we are told, ‘immediately’ they drop everything and follow him (Mt 4: 20).
Is this response something we are all meant to imitate, though? Should everyone leave their jobs and devote themselves wholly to following Christ? Yes and no – because, really, the question gets it wrong: there isn’t a simple opposition between following Christ and living our ordinary lives. We are certainly all called to devote ourselves to following him, but that doesn’t in every case mean leaving behind our fishing nets or, as is more likely these days, desks and computers! As St Paul had to tell the Thessalonians, Christ’s coming into the world does not remove the need to work for the necessities of life (cf. 2 Thess 3: 6-13). The example this account of call of the first disciples presents for everyone, then, is the single-mindedness of their response to Christ’s call.
At the same time, though, this radical following of Jesus which we see in the actions of Peter, Andrew, James, and John in today’s Gospel does remind us that, in some cases, Jesus might be calling us to give our lives and our work more explicitly to his service: it is these very Apostles who first preached on the Good News of our salvation, and the question we heard in our first reading rings out in every age, ‘How are they to hear without a preacher?’ (Rom 10: 14). Today’s Gospel account shows us the power of God’s grace, which enabled St Andrew to respond so wholeheartedly to Jesus’ call; as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ presence among us at Christmas, St Andrew shows us that, if we are open to that presence, he will give us the grace to do the same.