Wednesday, November 30, 2016

St. Andrew Invites us to be Evangelizers

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Image result for St. Andrew the Apostle with St. Peter

Today the universal church celebrates the Feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle.  Andrew was a fisherman, along with his brother Simon Peter. We are told that he was initially a follower of John the Baptist, but upon hearing the exhortation of the Baptist, "Behold, the Lamb of God!", his eyes were immediately opened and he recognized Jesus as the Christ and became Jesus' first disciple.  Andrew then invited his brother to meet this Jesus, the Messiah, and follow him. Ultimately, in the Gospel of Matthew, it recounts Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee when He saw Andrew and Simon Peter fishing, and then asked the two to become disciples and "fishers of men."

Image result for St. Andrew the Apostle with St. Peter

I always love this Feast Day, because it signals the beginning of Advent. By tradition, the feast of St. Andrew marks the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of a new year with the start of Advent. In fact, the Sunday that falls nearest to St. Andrew’s feast day on November 30th is always the first Sunday of Advent.  

I also associate it with the beautiful Christmas Novena Preparatory Prayer which goes like this:

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen
But  I want to look at the role that St. Andrew played in bringing his brother, the very 'rock' of the Church, to the feet of Jesus.  What if he had not done this or had lacked the courage to invite his brother to come see this Jesus? What if he had not been open to receive the proclamation of St. John the Baptist, pointing towards the 'Lamb of God'? What if he had been unwilling to leave everything behind and follow Our Lord?  Talk about being the first Christian evangelist! He was open, vocal, and inviting. He was willing to speak with others about what touched his heart.  In this era referred to as the new evangelization, St. Andrew serves as an exemplar of one who demonstrates conviction, faith, and steadfastness.
I ponder the Andrews in my own life who have invited me to move out of my comfort zone, to grow, to commit, to say 'yes' to the Lord's invitation to come follow Him and ultimately come closer to Him. It is astounding how much my faith has grown due to the encouragement of others who have shared their love and experience of Jesus Christ with me. For example, more than 13 years ago I was invited to attend a Small Christian Community by someone at my parish to learn more about Holy Scriptures. After attending, I then learned more about Our Lady and was invited to pray the Holy Rosary and deepen my understanding of Her role as our spiritual mother. This allowed the Virgin Mary to begin to invite me to deeper conversion and cultivate the desire to attend daily Mass, frequent the sacraments, and pray in Adoration. After furthering my commitment to this, I was invited by a mother and daughter who attended daily Mass to attend the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. [OCDS], and would ultimately join and become a vowed member over the course of more than a decade. 
Thanks to the evangelists Our Lord put in my life [Helen, Linda, & Megan, to name a few], my spiritual journey has been shaped, molded, and further strengthened.   In turn, St. Andrew's natural inclination to invite his brother, also leads me to take inventory of how I can be a voice of love and encouragement for others who may not yet know Christ or have forgotten Him, to come to know and treasure Him in their hearts, homes, and daily lives. 
The US Conference of Bishops wrote of this call in their encyclical of 2012 entitled Disciples Called to Witness
The New Evangelization is a call to each person to deepen his or her own faith, have confidence in the Gospel, and possess a willingness to share the Gospel. It is a personal encounter with the person of Jesus, which brings peace and joy. The New Evangelization provides the lens through which people experience the Church and world around them. The New Evangelization invites people to experience God’s love and mercy through the sacraments, especially through the Eucharist and Penance and Reconciliation. Evangelization is the essence of the Church’s identity: “The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the holy Spirit.” Pope Paul VI reawakened the Church’s evangelizing mission, Blessed John Paul II championed the call for the New Evangelization, and Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed the need for the New Evangelization. (See
Let us ask St. Andrew during this Advent season and beyond to assist us in answering the call to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and to give testimony to His unfailing action in our lives.  In examining the lives of St. Andrew and all the apostles, we see that Jesus does not call the qualified, but instead qualifies the called. Let us have open hearts and minds to hear and see the Lord's presence in our midst, and then to share with others. Amen.  
Image result for St. Andrew the Apostle