Each year on 30th November, the Church celebrates the feast of St Andrew the Apostle. Andrew was brother of Simon Peter and both of them came from the fishing village of Bethsaida on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Andrew was originally a disciple of John the Baptist but later became a disciple of Jesus after Andrew responded to Jesus' invitation to ‘Come and See’ where he lived and he 'stayed with him that day' (see John 1:35ff). It was Andrew who introduced Peter to Jesus – an encounter recorded by John’s Gospel when we are told ‘he took Simon to Jesus’ (John 1:42).
As one of the twelve Apostles, Andrew was venerated by the early Church because of the witness of his martyrdom by crucifixion on an ‘X’ shaped cross with which he is pictured in art and sculpture. There is a legend that some of his bones were brought to Scotland and buried at the place where the town of St Andrew’s now stands. For this reason, the white ‘X’ on the Scottish flag represents the cross on which St Andrew died. He is also venerated by Christians of the East as Peter his brother is in the West. An icon of both brothers is often used as a focus of prayer for Christian unity between East and West (see below).
What does the witness of St Andrew inspire among us? First, the call to mission and understanding mission as introducing others to Christ so that they might have a deep personal relationship to him too. So, let us not be afraid or embarrassed to invite someone to pray with us, to come to church, to hope and to share with them the Good News of the Gospel. We are disciples called to make other disciples and to initiate others into the love of the Lord.
Second, to pray for Christian unity, especially between East and West. St John Paul II talked about the Church as a body breathing with both lungs – referring to the great Traditions of Eastern and Western Christianity.
Third, to pray in this ‘Week of Witness’ for all persecuted Christians around the world and that we might have some share in the courage and fortitude that St Andrew displayed right to the end.
For all these intentions, St Andrew, pray for us.