November 29, 2016

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, Caravaggio, c. 1603–1606.

Feast of Saint Andrew, November 30, 2016

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 4:18-22

Come after me. .... ” (Mt 4:19)

The calling of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, all fishermen, fascinates today’s Christians. Could it really be true that Jesus could just walk along and expect these four men to abandon their families and careers? From all that is found in the Gospels, it seems so. They were overwhelmed by the aura and power of Christ. They had no choice but to follow Him; they knew it in the depths of their hearts and souls. Following Jesus wholeheartedly was not unique to these four apostles; you and I are called in much the same way. Leaving everything behind and following Christ unencumbered by worldly concerns is the journey of every Christian. So what specifically needs to be left behind? And what does it mean to follow Christ?

Let’s begin with the later question. The apostles in this story left their fishing nets, careers, and families, and simply walked with Jesus. Each of them followed Christ for the rest of their lives. Their call was radical in that nothing was to separate them from Christ or from proclaiming His name. Most of them died as martyrs. The disciples embraced Jesus before they knew what would happen to Him. They knew it was the right decision.

The human person still feels that same drive that inspired the four men of today’s gospel to leave it all behind and follow Christ. Discipleship begins at that point. God has created each person with an emptiness that only He can fill. The person unites himself to the humanity of Christ in order to touch the divine. Through prayer, Baptism, and the Eucharist the person feels and knows the presence of Christ within himself. It is only in Christ that the human person will find fulfillment and peace. The highest call is to walk with Christ, most especially in His passion, death, and resurrection, that the disciple be filled with hope and new life.

The apostles left their nets and families behind to follow Christ unreservedly. How about everyone else? What specifically are you called to leave behind in your journey of discipleship? First, it must be noted that some men and women are still called to leave their careers and families behind and follow Christ through monastic life. But monks and nuns are not the only people to live a radical relationship with Christ. And those not called to monastic life must also leave all behind to follow Christ.

To have a deep relationship with Christ, the disciple must first get rid of sin and sinful tendencies. This lifelong struggle can only happen in prayer. A life based in Jesus demands that the person continually examines her life so that she may shed that which is not of Christ. Sin can easily creep into a person’s life unless that person is watching his actions carefully. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is needed in the life of faith in order to rid the heart and soul of sin and start anew. Sin draws the person away from Christ. Sin must go!

Pride must be dealt with as well. A relationship with Christ can only occur if the person knows he needs Christ. Freely choosing to obey Christ, the faithful disciple knows he cannot do it alone. It takes the community of the Church and the presence of the Holy Spirit found in conscience to help form that important relationship. Pride can steer a person away from Christ.

Lastly, reckless ambition and greed are not of Christ. Power and money become one’s god when ambition and greed hold him prisoner. They can never be satisfied—there is always more power and more money that could be attained. Money is necessary to provide for oneself and one’s family. Balance is the key. While the disciple of Christ must provide for his family, he needs to realize that his relationship with Christ trumps all else. Christ teaches us to treat others with kindness and respect and not to lord it over them. If the person trusts in God, he will not worry about having enough money; he is in God’s hands.

Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John were each called to follow Christ radically. They left it all behind and walked with Christ. Two thousand years later, you and I are called to do the same in our lives. Leave sinfulness, pride, ambition, and greed behind and embrace Christ. Walk with Him, unencumbered by earthly realities, into eternal life. Happiness, joy, and peace will only come when the disciple leaves it all behind and embraces Christ.

Questions for private reflection …

1. Have you detected that inner drive to embrace Christ? How have you responded to that call?

2. Sin, pride, ambition, and greed must be eradicated to be united with Christ. How does this affect you? Which of these areas affect you the most? Are you ready to give them up?

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois, "Living the Word: Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2013", Vermont Catholic (November 2013). Reprinted with permission from the author.

Rev. Msgr. Bernard W. Bourgeois is the Pastor of Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Patrick Parishes in Rutland, VT.

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