From our earliest days, we jockey for the prize. Mom’s affection, a gold trophy, bragging rights: you name it, we want it first. Rivalry courses through our veins, and it boils when heated by blood line. Saint Thomas says we’re more likely to envy those nearest to us in relation and talent. Playing superstar Lebron James in one-on-one basketball would be a peaceful honor, but playing my brother is an existential threat. The familiar game between us was warlike, and our broken bodies bear witness to the repeated battles for first place.
The “Protokletos” [protoclete] or “the first called” of the apostles, St. Andrew, did not elbow his brother out of a prize. He hunted him down to share the good news. Aquinas states that Andrew did this so that Peter and he “might be related in both blood and faith.” Though Andrew was first called, he would not be first among equals. Peter became the pope, and Andrew witnessed his own blood receive the keys to heaven.
Considering Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist, it is possible that the prophet’s words sank into his heart: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Thankfully, Andrew did not mistake God’s favor to his brother as an existential threat. He lived by the words of Christ, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Mt 20:16).
This feast of St. Andrew poses a paradoxical meditation for us. The first-called apostle is celebrated as the last apostolic feast of the liturgical calendar. The Church’s liturgy enters into a new year and new season in which we prepare ourselves for both Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem and his final coming at the Last Judgment. As the light of day wanes evermore, giving rise to the lengthening of night, the season of winter harkens the final days of life. It is precisely in the face of the end that the Church celebrates something new. The Christ Child, the light of the world, comes at the darkest time.
We want to be first, but this won’t happen unless we also wish to be last.
Andrew is an exemplary model of Christ’s words, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In these last days of November, meditate upon the call to be like Jesus who did not grasp at divinity like Adam and Eve in the garden. He took the form of a servant, humbling himself, and becoming obedient to death on a cross (Phil 2:6–8).
Our own desire to be first must follow after Christ, and we must realize he goes before us and comes after us. We want to be first, but Christ is first. We need to become last, but Christ is last. He is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Come Lord Jesus!” (Ed. Maranatha!!)
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom