What an Unsung Hero Can Teach Us Today

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, Caravaggio (1603-1606)

Andrew is mentioned only twelve times in all of scripture, four of those times during a recitation of the names of all of the apostles.  More frequently, we hear about Jesus’ encounters with Peter, James and John, who we might consider to be closest to their master.  Andrew does, however, get those twelve mentions and that’s a good bit more than some of the others, such as Phillip or Bartholomew.  Andrew is never noted as being present during some of the biggest moments in Jesus’ life; for example, at the Transfiguration of Christ, we hear that only Peter, James and John were present.  Where were the others?  Where was Andrew?  And what could Andrew possibly teach us today?

In those few times we hear about him in the Bible, which are subtle yet significant, we can understand just how important a figure Andrew, a simple fisherman, actually was to the Gospel story.  First, we know that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and that he decided to follow Jesus instead.  According to John’s Gospel, Andrew stated: “We have found the Messiah,” making Andrew the first to declare that fact.  He was the very first one called.

Second, we know that Andrew is the one who brought his brother Peter to Jesus.  Peter became, of course, one of the central figures in our faith and a great pillar of our Church.  He receives much of the spotlight, but it was Andrew, the first called, who brought his brother forward and into history.

And finally, in one of the greatest Gospel miracle stories, the feeding of the 5,000, it was Andrew who noticed the boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.  This set into motion an event that resulted in the feeding and, likely, conversion of thousands.  Again, Andrew was the unsung hero that day.

Andrew is not an often mentioned apostle and it’s unlikely that many of us consider him to be a pivotal player in the Gospel narrative, yet he was the first disciple called by Jesus, he brought Peter to Christ and he made possible Jesus’ most famous public miracle.  By all accounts, Andrew was significant, yet he remains closer to the periphery of the story, in the shadows of history, easily forgotten.

For the other disciples of Christ, we hear dramatic stories of doubt, betrayal and rejection.  That they bickered over who among them would be remembered as greatest and experienced those occasional gaffes that provided teaching moments for all of time.  We also encounter lessons of profound bravery, trust, surrender and faith.  Some would go on and gain “pillar” status or be given favorable descriptions such as “rock” and “beloved”.  Andrew never seems to achieve such notoriety or fame. 

What can that teach us today?  In some ways, it forces us to consider a basic question about our motivations when it comes to faith.  Are we in it for salvation… for ourselves?  Do we seek recognition because we are pillars in our community?  Do we prefer to be identified with a community and degrade or dismiss others who don’t similarly belong?

Or…

… can we be more like Andrew?  Focused on hearing and following the call of Jesus?  Eager to point him out to others for their gain, not our own?  Can we live our own lives closer to the periphery of the story, in the shadows of history, simply knowing that we dedicated ourselves to the greater glory of Christ? 

I believe it’s worth reflecting on the life of Andrew, a largely forgotten apostle… a saint for the ages.

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