Monday, December 1, 2008
The Boys from Bethsaida
St. Andrew, whose feast day is November 30, got bumped this year by the Advent 1 Sunday. So, we're doing him honor a day late. Andrew was one of the local Bethsaida boys. I'm guessing he was a middle child, because in the Gospels his brother, Peter, gets a disproportionate amount of attention and overshadows him by a long shot. Peter overshadows Philip, his and Andrew's compatriot, too, not to mention the rest of the disciples. Peter is as blustery, blunt, boisterous, and bull-headed as Andrew is quiet and serene. But contrary to impulsive Peter who, in the Gospel it seems, is always screwing up, Andrew is a behind-the-scenes man who gets the job done. He was actually the one who introduced Peter to Jesus, earning for himself the title of "first missionary". This set off a whole chain of introductions: Jesus introduces himself to Philip; Philip tells Nathanael about Jesus, though Nathanael is a bit snarky about folks who come from...Nazareth! Definitely Podunkville, in Nathanael's estimation: "What good can come from there?" Philip tosses the invite, "Come and see", over his shoulder as he walks off. Nathanael takes him up on it, and "Bam!": what a life-changing collision takes place for Nathanael as he walks up to Jesus. "Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!", Jesus shouts in the hearing of all his friends. From then on, Nathanael and the Bethsaida Boys were inseparable from this guy from, yes, Nazareth! Later on, it's also Andrew who spots the boy with the five barley loaves and two fish and brings him to Jesus who quickly transforms the occasion into quite a picnic -- for 5000 people, we're told! Later still, at a festival, some Greek people approach Philip, who promptly refers them to Andrew, and then accompanies him to introduce the Greeks to Jesus, proving once again that those boys from Bethsaida certainly knew their way around, and were definitely the ones you wanted to get to know in order to meet the Rabbi.
As with most of the disciples we don't know how Andrew fared after the Master's death and resurrection. Legend has it that he made several missionary journies to Scythia, and eventually met martyrdom while hanging on an X-shaped cross. He became the patron of Scotland because of another legend that his relics had been brought there in the 8th century. Andrew is also honored by the Church of the East as founder of the Patriarchal See of Constantinople.
Not bad for a middle child! I doubt that Andrew wasted a lot of time envying his older sibling who got to carry around the keys of the kingdom. He was too busy!