On November 30 the Christian church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew. In 1990 I was ordained to the priesthood on the 30th of November, the feast of St. Andrew. This is an important day for the people in Scotland as well because they celebrate their national day. The legendary story is that St. Andrew preached the gospel in Scotland and he is the patron saint of Scotland.
Who was St. Andrew? As most of you know he was a disciple of Jesus. He was one of the first disciples. Before he became a disciple of Jesus he was a disciple of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. In the first three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke – the synoptic gospels, that is to say, gospels with a combined view of the life of Jesus – we don’t get much information about Andrew apart from his name. But in St. John’s gospel, we get three clear accounts of him. This morning as we celebrate his feast I would like to draw your attention to these three accounts.
In the first account, we find how after Jesus called him he went and brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. Although he introduced his brother to Jesus, later he was always known as the brother of Peter. The better-known figure was Peter, not Andrew. It seems that he was happy with this secondary role because it is not recorded that he did not complain about this.
In the second account, we find Andrew in a crisis. The disciples had to feed a crowd of five thousand people but they did not have the means to do so. Then one disciple said even eight months’ wages would not be sufficient to buy food to give all those people just a bite. In this desperate situation, Andrew found a boy with two small fish and five loaves. Andrew knew very well it was ridiculous to try to feed five thousand people with that but he had an open mind. He just asked the question: Can we do something with this? In other words, he was a person who could try the so-called impossible.
On the third occasion, we meet Andrew when some Greeks wanted to see Jesus. He was happy to introduce these so-called Gentiles to Jesus. Here we should remember that all Jesus’ disciples including Jesus himself were Jews and Jews were very conscious of their ethnicity and considered themselves as the chosen people of God.
In all these occasions we see how Andrew introduced various people to Jesus. Not with great sermons or miracles but with a personal touch. It seems that he believed in person-to-person evangelism. Here I am reminded of a saying of one of the greatest theologians of my country – D. T. Niles of Sri Lanka. He said evangelism is like one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. Andrew was a person like that. He did not proclaim the gospel from a high pedestal. In the ordinary situations of day-to-day life, he brought people to Jesus.
In a society where relationships are deteriorating, where people have no faith in small things and are not happy with others or so-called gentiles, Andrew is an effective model for our spirituality.
Therefore as we keep the feast of St. Andrew let us ask these questions. How are my relationships with others? Do I have faith in small things? How do I relate to people who are not in my group?