The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew,
Painted by Mattia Preti (1613-1699),
Painted circa 1650
© Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome / Alamy
Andrew met his brother and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah’
As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.
One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.
Reflection on the Altar Painting
In today’s Gospel reading we hear how Andrew became the first disciple of our Lord. He had been a disciple of John the Baptist looking for the Messiah. Once Andrew met Jesus, that was it! He followed Jesus. This is thus an important scene, as it shows the first disciple joining Jesus. BUT it is about more than that. Even before Jesus would tell his disciples that he would make them fishers of men, Andrew took his own initiative, went home, and convinced his brother, Simon Peter, to follow Christ too… Andrew started immediately, on the day itself that he met Jesus, to bring people to Christ. And where did Andrew start finding the second disciple? At home… no need to look far afield or to have grand plans: evangelisation starts right at home.
The photograph is the interior of Sant’ Andrea della Valle in Rome. On my day off, on Thursdays, I often go there. The depiction of Saint Andrew (illustrated here) by Mattia Preti from 1650 at the very end of the Church, is very dramatic. Tradition says that Andrew preached in Jerusalem and was crucified for preaching against idolatry. He was hung on a cross in the shape of an X, supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus. Andrew’s hands were bound with rope and not nailed. He died slowly of hunger and exhaustion. Mattia Preti painted the nave of the Church in 1650 and our scene is further flanked on either side by The Erection of the Cross and The Entombment. My father was called Andrew. He sadly died when I was 18 and so Saint Andrew holds a special place in my own heart.
Also, in our reading today, we hear the very first words spoken by Jesus as accounted by the Gospel of John… These words are not about teaching, or learning, or challenging…. Jesus is simply asking a question…: ‘What are you looking for?’… A good question to meditate upon today, at the start of this new year.
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