30 November 2009

The First to Recognize the Lord

On this day, the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, this reflection is excerpted from Saint Peter Damian. It focuses mainly on Saint Peter, the first among the apostles in rank, and his brother Saint Andrew, the first to recognize Jesus. Saint Peter Damian teaches us to follow in the path of these two great apostles: the path of self-surrender, of letting go of worldly goods to seek the treasures of heaven, and finally, something which no one escapes this life without experiencing – suffering.

Dear brothers, today we are enlightened by the feast of Saint Andrew. In the dark mist and cold of winter, this celebration surrounds the soul with the beautiful weather of serenity. If the inclement weather numbs us from the cold outside, the announcement of victory makes us such brave warriors of fire. Andrew encourages generous hearts to arm themselves for spiritual battle and spread the flame of divine love in the hearts of the brave soldiers of Christ.

The noblest martyrdom we can suffer is surely the one that made our holy Redeemer the Chief of martyrs. In His divine plan, He had died as did Peter and Andrew, by the torture of the Cross. They are separated from the other apostles, although all of them have the same power and the same dignity. The Cross, which administered the scepter to the King, then led the two soldiers to their reward.

Note the blessed relationship of the two brothers: Originating from the same race and coming together for life, Peter and Andrew entered into eternal bliss through the same martyrdom. Both distinguished on earth, and in heaven have the same eminent nobility.

Here on earth are the children of John; in heaven are the children of the Cross. Separating them with death from this earthly life, the Cross opened for them a new birth, gloriously triumphant among the citizens of the New Jerusalem.

According to the testimony of the Gospel, the second in the list of the apostles, was the first to recognize the Lord. Saint John in fact says: one of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. And the text adds that he met up with his brother Simon and said: “We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41-42). Andrew was the messenger of a great mystery: he had found the One that all the saints have eagerly waited for since the beginning of time but never could see.

The King of Glory Who had come to fight alone, marching to war, gradually enlisted soldiers. Christ came to free man captured under the tyrannical yoke of the devil and call them to liberty.

He came to snatch His people from the yoke of Pharaoh, to guide and lead them with a strong Hand to the land flowing with milk and honey.

Coming into this world, Christ did not choose collaborators from illustrious men or gallant warriors; neither did He choose philosophers but simple fishermen struggling with their nets, because His victory depended solely on His divine power, and not human strength.

The destruction of Jericho had foreshadowed the victory of Christ. The mighty walls of that city did not collapse under the blows of war machines, but by the cheers of the people and the sound of trumpets.

With a sign from the Lord, the holy apostles Peter and Andrew did not hesitate to abandon all they had in order to convert worldly goods into heavenly treasures. They abandoned visible property for the invisible. They turned their backs on what they had to tend to and turned towards what they hoped for. They are on their way to the Kingdom through suffering and will rise to the joys of eternal life by passing through the Cross.

Andrew did not seem jealous of the primacy of Peter, although he had preceded him in faith.

The Master of heaven has placed us under the precept of self-denial – this is the rule of true humility – that we follow the right path. In those early disciples, who became doctors of the world, Christ has given the model of all virtues. Thus, until the consummation of the world any faithful soul can direct their gaze towards them and imitate them.

We follow these rivers from which flows life until we reach the Source. We walk behind the soldiers to meet the King, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.