Homily for St. Andrew’s Day 2022
The Feast of St. Andrew is the first holy day of the Christian year. The season of Advent has begun. From now until Christmas the days will slowly wax shorter and shorter, as if to imitate the brevity of human life, which is here one day and gone the next. These are quite literally dark days in more than one sense of the word. As the poet John Donne said in his Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day’ which occurs at the Winter solstice in late December, the shortest day of the year:
“‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world’s whole sap is sunk…life is shrunk”
St. Andrew’s Day is the first day of the Christian year because Andrew was the first of Christ’s disciples to be called, or rather to be caught, like a fish, you might say, drawn up from the depths into the realms of everlasting day. This is where we long to be. The light of eternal day shining upon us, a sense of warmth and love stirring something within us, even a life that will never die, and a sun that will never set.
Like Andrew, Christ has come to draw our cold and lonely souls up from the depths. He casts down his sacred pearls of promise into the waters of chaos and turmoil. This place that we inhabit, like fish, like creatures from the world below. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Can’t you feel the warmth radiating from those words? If you are the fish, that is, and if the net is the good news that Christ the great fisherman has broken into the present, then there has sprung up a light in the darkness, to attract the hungry and the weary souls of this world with Bread from heaven. “The sun is spent…The world’s whole sap is sunk…life is shrunk,” but Christ our God to earth descendeth, the Dayspring from on high, and when he is high and lifted up, he will draw all men unto himself.
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” St. Andrew was caught by the good news, St. John pointing to the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This revelation caught Andrew’s attention, but it wasn’t until the Lamb, the Great Fisherman himself stepped into Andrew’s boat with him that he was drawn up to the light. When we normally think of Advent prophesies, which ones come to mind? Usually the prophesies of Isaiah who spoke of a “great light” and “emmanuel who is God with us.” But, there is also a prophesy about fishermen. God spoke to Jeremiah and promised him that he would bring his people back from exile, and that their return would be greater than the Exodus from Egypt. He said, “I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them.”
At least four of Christ’s disciples were fishermen by trade: Andrew, Peter, James, and John. This was no coincidence, as it was no coincidence that the Word of God by whom all things were made, took on the form of man, and the work of a carpenter. He who would build a new creation in his flesh drew these fishermen unto himself, so that the world through them might hear that same Word of God’s power and love and salvation.
The Scriptures record very little about St. Andrew. But a very early church record tells us that he became the apostle to Greece and then to Eastern Europe near the Black Sea, and legend says that through his ministry the Ukrainians and Russians were converted to Christ. The record says that Andrew was traveling through Greece when he was arrested by a Roman governor for preaching the good news of Christ. The Governor threatened to crucify Andrew just as Christ if he did not recant his faith, but Andrew replied “If I had been afraid of the tree of the cross, I should not have proclaimed the glory of the cross.” It’s said that Andrew requested to be crucified on a cross shaped in the form of an X, which is the Greek letter Chi, and the first letter in the Greek name for Christ. He was hung on the cross with hands and feet tied to the wood, which he compared to the Tree of Life.
As he hung there for two days he pleaded with the Governor to accept Christ as His Master and Teacher, saying, “To God Almighty, who alone is true, I bring sacrifice day by day, not the smoke of incense, or the flesh of bulls…but sacrificing a spotless lamb day by day on the altar of the cross; and though all the people of the faithful partake of His body and drink His blood, the Lamb that has been sacrificed remains after this entire and alive.” When the Governor replied, “How can Christ be eaten and yet remain alive?” Andrew answered just as Christ had told him when he was first called to be a disciple, saying, “Become a disciple and you will see.”
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men… become a disciple and you will see.” Both of these statements reveal the great mystery of God’s plan in Jesus Christ. Today and every day, Christ is calling you to forgive those who trespass against you, if you wish God to forgive you. Like Andrew and Peter, leave behind your earthly thoughts, and be drawn up to heavenly light. It is Christ who works in you both to will and to do. And it is Christ’s will for you to be here, in this dark world, not for your own sake, but for the sake of drawing others to that light by your example of selflessness, of love, of hope and joy in a world where these things should not be.
The hope of Christ will always seem out of place in this world. Like a light shining in a dark room, it takes some time for the eyes to adjust, and we begin to see clear through this world, as our hopes and loves are drawn out of it, guided by the light of another world. Knowing this, who would not have compassion on those that remain below? Who would not look with a sympathetic eye on the sorrows and the sad addictions of those that do not know the God who made them? Let us not be puffed up and boastful about this knowledge, but humbled knowing that we would be just like them were it not for Christ’s miraculous intervention in our lives.
St. Bernard once compared St. Andrew’s hope to the fins and the scales of a fish. The scales for protection in the fight, and the fins, like wings for soaring upwards. He said, “Just as the scales are to be understood as signifying patience, so, it seems to me, the fins can be referred not unreasonably to cheerfulness. For cheerfulness of mind lifts us up and sustains us, so that the man of cheerful disposition appears always in a sense to be soaring heavenwards…Certainly he can leap to lofty heights, whosoever he may be that so rejoices as well in the endurance of present evils as in the expectation of future rewards, that he even makes these things the subject of his glorying. Such a one I have found the blessed Apostle Andrew to be…”
Tonight, let us pray to God to grant us St. Andrew’s patience and cheerfulness, his ability to leap to lofty heights in Christ Jesus, who draws us up on the wings of faith, so that we might look to the future, when he will return to put to silence all of the noisy threats of the present life with the shout of victory. As Christ draws us to the altar to receive the Bread of heaven, even his body and blood, let us come here as to the Source of our gladness and joy, and let us take the Blessed Sacrament as the medicine of our immortality, so that our hearts and minds might be drawn upward into the heavenly places there to dwell with him alone, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.