Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew on what two days ago was the 180th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Little Rock under the patronage of St. Andrew — hence this Cathedral of St. Andrew.
In John’s version of the call of St. Andrew, we discover that Andrew and John were followers of John the Baptist, heard him give witness to Jesus and then left John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew then went and got his brother Simon, who also began to follow Jesus. Jesus renamed him Peter. And then what?
Well, following Jesus was not yet a full-time activity for these disciples. Jesus’ public ministry only began after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, so it was only then that these disciples left everything to follow Jesus — and that's where today's Scripture reading from Matthew’s Gospel begins.
Jesus gathers his disciples and his previous contact with Andrew, John and Peter explains their readiness to drop everything when called and follow Jesus unreservedly. Their vocation passed through several steps: First they were fishermen, then they followed John the Baptist, and then they had an encounter with Jesus at the Jordan, after which they returned for a time to their career as fishermen, and then finally we have Jesus’ call in today's Gospel and their decision to abandon everything to follow him full-time.
One thing that has always struck me about these guys is that they were married men with family obligations. Peter had a mother-in-law whom Jesus cured, so a wife and maybe children. But when Jesus calls, they give up their job and entrust their families to the care of others.
And not only did they subject their families to possible material deprivation by abandoning their job to follow Jesus, their absence meant that their children would have no father in the house, children who, like children today, do have a right to expect their dad to be around. Isn’t this irresponsible? How can Jesus take husbands and fathers away from families who need them?
I have always found this rule of thumb a good guide for setting priorities. Our first priority has got to be a living relationship with God through Jesus, who is by far the most important person in our life: listening to him and obeying him. Our second priority is all those obligations that are directly connected with fulfilling God's personal call in our life: my priesthood, your marriage and your children, but God still comes first.
Our third priority is all our other obligations deriving from that vocation of marriage or priesthood, for instance: earning a living to support your family. And our fourth priority is all those other good activities that are not directly connected with our vocation
So with this in mind, how then can we justify these disciples leaving everything to follow Jesus? Well, if Jesus' call to discipleship was a fundamental call of God in their lives, isn’t it obvious that what God says comes first? Jesus' personal call in our lives is always a first level priority — and so these disciples obeyed his call.
They knew that their family obligations were a second level priority, so they dropped everything, trusted in God's providence, that if they were faithful, God would provide a way, and so they began to follow Jesus full-time. Contrary to first appearances, these disciples really did have their priorities right.
Today we will be celebrating the sacrament of confirmation, asking God to fill Scott Piette with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to help him discern God’s will and act accordingly, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And we will ask that God will rekindle the grace of this sacrament in us who were confirmed in the past.
May St. Andrew, whose feast we celebrate today, inspire us to follow Jesus faithfully as he did, in the concrete circumstances of our lives.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Nov. 30 at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.
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