what are you looking for?

(fr Cyprian, feast of Saint Andrew)

andrew cross

I feel like I have a long friendship with St. Andrew. I grew up and went to grade school in St. Andrew’s parish (in Romeoville, Illinois); this feast was the birthday of my mother and of my best friend from high school; and my grandmother, who was Scottish, drilled it into my head that St. Andrew is the patron of Scotland due to a dubious legend about his bones being carried there; and therefore the Union Jack has the saltire or X-shaped cross of St. Andrew on it to represent Scotland. He’s also the patron of Russia, which he probably never visited, and Greece, which he might have. I visited the church of Sant’Andrea on the Amalfi coast, where his body was supposedly carried, but then again his body or pieces of it are supposedly also in Scotland, Constantinople, and Rome. For all that, Andrew never really took shape for me: I never thought of my grade school as being named after an apostle, or the patron of Scotland as being Peter’s brother, or that that X shape on the Union Jack was his cross.

As I said, like many of the apostles it’s not clear at all exactly what Andrew did after the resurrection, or where he went to preach the Good News; ­­there are conflicting reports. What is clear is that he was a fisherman from Bethsaida, and it’s very clear that he was Simon Peter’s brother, and the synoptics tell of he and Peter being called always together as we hear in the gospel today (Mt 4:18-22). He seems to have been regarded as one of the most important apostles, a kind of leader in the Gospel community (he is always mentioned among the first four in the lists of the apostles), and he gets mentioned by name in a few incidents in association with Philip.

In the story of the call of Andrew in the gospel of John we get a little better glimpse into Andrew’s personality and a little glimpse into the character of Jesus. From John we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, and one day John was standing with Andrew and another of his disciples, and he saw Jesus walk by and called out, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God!” And Andrew and the other guy left John immediately and started following Jesus. So they’re walking along and suddenly Jesus turns around and sees them following him, and he said to them, “What are you looking for?” Jesus is direct here, right to the point, like delivering a koan. I imagine this long pregnant pause, each looking into each other’s eyes. “What are you looking for?” They don’t really answer they just say, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” As if they can’t name what they are looking for but they are pretty sure that Jesus has got it. Apparently that was a good answer because Jesus says, “Come and see.” They came and saw, John says, and remained with him. But John also says that he first went and got his brother Simon and told him that they had found the Messiah. And this is where the famous scene takes place when Jesus says “You are Simon son of John. From now on you are to be called Cephas.” For this, Andrew earns the name protoclete––“first called.” But even though he was the first called, before he stays he goes to get his brother, and then immediately takes a back seat to him.

What are you looking for? I get this image of Andrew just kind of disappearing, just sort of dissolving, or like Eucharistic bread, being broken and passed out. No one is quite clear where his body is; no one is quite sure where his apostlate was; he sort of fell into the background behind his favored brother. What are you looking for Andrew? Do you want to be great? Do you want to be head of a church? Do you want to be Pope? Come and see––someday nobody’s going to remember that their school was named after an apostle. Someday your cross is going to disappear into a flag. Someday they’re going to name a golf tournament after you in Scotland, but no one will remember your face, no one is going to remember your voice or what songs you liked, no one is going to take note of where you spent your life––they’re only going to remember your beautiful feet that carried the good news some place. You are going to dissolve into the good news, you are going to decrease and Christ is going to increase. You are going to be the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, and by dying yield a rich harvest. Is that okay with you? Is that what you’re looking for?

“Where are you staying Lord? I want to be with you, I want to bring others to you.” That simple answer and act sums up the ministry of the apostle. We might ask ourselves today, or let Jesus ask us: What are you looking for? This would be enough of an answer: I just want to be where you are Lord, and bring others there too.

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