Andrew is like most of the apostles. While tradition may have favored him more than others, Scripture doesn’t shine the spotlight on him like the three that have all the fun. Peter, James, and John are invited into houses when the Lord heals the sick or raises the dead; they get to go up to the mountain to witness the Transfiguration; they’re closer to him during the agony in the garden, and later it’s especially their acts that are recorded and their letters included in the canonical Scriptures.
Andrew gets his fifteen minutes at the beginning of John’s Gospel. Upon meeting Jesus, he immediately goes to his brother Simon Peter to tell him the Messiah has been found. After introducing the future first Pope to his savior, he sinks into the background. Even the few mentions Andrew gets afterward are almost always in reference to his brother. But instead of going on an emotive rant about his superior sibling, Andrew simply takes his place among the other Apostles, following Jesus and spreading the Gospel until his martyrdom some years later. Indeed, if Andrew had constantly compared himself with Peter, he might have become unthankful for his own gifts and ended up looking on his brother with envy or disdain.
Nearly all of the saints in Heaven won’t be known to us in this lifetime, and even those with a name, like Andrew, remain generally anonymous save for a few details here and there. What’s surprising is that this continues to be surprising. It continues to bewilder us because we continue to believe that holiness must somehow be so extraordinary that if we aren’t raising the dead, curing the sick, or walking on water, then God isn’t using us to do great things for him and his Church.
If our understanding of sanctity entails anything more than fulfilling God’s particular will for us and appreciating what we have been given to offer, then no wonder if we end up disappointed. The prominent saints are prominent so that we can see them and imitate their virtues, not so that we can see them and devise a plan for our own rise to prominence.
In fact, social recognition is quite accidental to Christian sanctity. What the world notices is often quite different from what matters to God. Romano Guardini remarks that “we do the apostle no service by considering him a great religious personality. This attitude is usually the beginning of unbelief. Personal importance, spiritual creativeness, dynamic faith are not decisive in this life. What counts is that Jesus Christ has called him, pressed his seal upon him, and sent him forth.”
Life isn’t centered on our perceptions of position or anything we merely happen to hold dear. It’s about loving and serving God in whatever way he sees fit. Perhaps the “great” things will be done not by us personally, but by those around us. Perhaps those who will take center stage, though, still need to be introduced to Jesus.
Image: Caravaggio, Jesus Calls Peter and Andrew