Register Summary

Pope Benedict XVI met with 35,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on June 14. He continued his series of teachings on the Twelve Apostles by reflecting on the lessons we can learn from the life of St. Andrew.

According to St. John’s Gospel, Andrew was the first apostle to be called by Jesus. His name, which is Greek and not Hebrew, is “an important indication of a certain cultural openness within his family,” the Holy Father said. Andrew then brought his brother, Simon Peter, to the Lord. The fraternal relationship of these two great apostles is reflected in the special relationship between the sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople.

Pope Benedict XVI pointed out how the Gospels mention Andrew at three key moments. At the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, he said, “It is worthwhile to emphasize Andrew’s realism. … He realized that his scant resources were insufficient. Jesus, however, was able to make them suffice for the multitude of people that had come to hear him.” From Jesus’ prophecy regarding the eventual destruction of Jerusalem, “We can deduce that we do not have to be afraid to ask Jesus questions, but, at the same time, we must be ready to accept the teachings that he offers us, however astonishing and difficult they may be.” The last episode recalls Jesus’ words that a grain of wheat must die in order to bear fruit — a symbol of Jesus’ crucifixion that became the bread of life for the world in his resurrection. “It will be a light for peoples and for cultures,” Pope Benedict noted. “In other words, Jesus was prophesying that the Church of the Greeks, the Church of pagans, and the Church of the world would be the fruit of his paschal mystery.”

According to tradition, Andrew preached the Gospel among the Greeks until he met his death by crucifixion. Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Andrew’s example would inspire all Christians to be zealous disciples of Christ, to bring others to the Lord, and to embrace the mystery of the cross both in life and death.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last two catecheses, we spoke about St. Peter. Insofar as the sources will allow, we will now try to get to know the other 11 apostles a bit better. Therefore, today we will talk about Simon Peter’s brother, St. Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve Apostles.

The first thing that strikes us about Andrew is his name: It is not a Hebrew name, as we would expect, but a Greek name, an important indication of a certain cultural openness within his family. They lived in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are fairly well present. In the lists of the Twelve Apostles, Andrew is found in second place in Matthew (10:1-4) and in Luke (6:13-16), and in fourth place in Mark (3:13-18) and in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13-14). In any case, he surely enjoyed great prestige within the early Christian communities.

Andrew and Peter

The Gospels explicitly mention the blood relationship between Peter and Andrew, as well as Jesus’ call to both of them. There we read the following: “As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matthew 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17). We learn another important detail from the fourth Gospel: Andrew was, at first, a disciple of John the Baptist. This shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared Israel’s hope and who wanted to know better the word of the Lord and the reality of the Lord’s presence. He was truly a man of faith and hope.

One day he heard John the Baptist proclaim Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). He was moved at that very moment and, together with another disciple whose name is not mentioned, he followed Jesus, the one whom John called the “Lamb of God.”

John the Evangelist mentions that they “saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:37-39). Thus, Andrew enjoyed some precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The story goes on to convey another significant detail that shows how he immediately displayed an unusual apostolic spirit: “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated the Anointed). Then he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40-43).

Andrew, therefore, was the first apostle to receive the call and follow Jesus. For this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the title of Protoklitos (the First-Called). It is surely because of the fraternal relationship between Peter and Andrew that the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople consider themselves as sister Churches. To highlight this relationship, in 1964 my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, returned the famous relic of St. Andrew, which had been kept until then in the Vatican basilica, to the Orthodox metropolitan bishop of the city of Patras in Greece, where, according to tradition, the apostle was crucified.

Andrew’s Realism

The Gospels particularly recall Andrew’s name in three other instances, which help us to know something more about this man. The first instance is the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee.

On that occasion, it was Andrew who pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had five barley loaves and two fish with him, very little, he noted, for all the people that had gathered there (see John 6:8-9). In this case, it is worthwhile to point out Andrew’s realism. He had seen the boy and, therefore, had already raised the question, “But what good are these for so many?” when he realized that his scant resources were insufficient. Jesus, however, was able to make them suffice for the multitude of people that had come to hear him.

The second instance was in Jerusalem. Leaving the city, a disciple pointed out to Jesus the impressive sight of the powerful walls that supported the Temple. The Master’s response was astonishing: Of those walls, he said, not one stone would be left upon another. Then Andrew, along with Peter, James and John, asked him, “Tell us, when this happen, and what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?” (Mark 13:1-4). In response to this question, Jesus delivered an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, inviting his disciples to read the signs of the times with wisdom and to always remain vigilant.

We can deduce from this episode that we do not have to be afraid to ask Jesus questions, but, at the same time, we must be ready to accept the teachings that he offers us, however astonishing and difficult they may be.

Apostle to the Greeks

Finally, there is a third endeavor by Andrew that is recorded in the Gospels. Once again, the setting is in Jerusalem, shortly before the passion. For the feast of Passover, John tells us, some Greeks — perhaps new converts or some God-fearing men — had come to Jerusalem in order to worship the God of Israel during the feast of Passover.

Andrew and Philip, the two apostles with Greek names, acted as interpreters and mediators with Jesus for this small group of Greeks. The Lord’s answer to their request seems somewhat enigmatic, as is often the case in the Gospel of John, but it for this very reason that it is full of meaning.

Jesus says to his disciples and, through them, to the Greek world, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:23-24).

What do these words mean in this context? Jesus says: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place, but not as some simple and brief conversation between me and a few other people that arises out of curiosity. Through my death, which will be like a grain of wheat that falls to the ground, the hour of my glorification will be attained. My death on the cross will bear great fruit. The “grain of wheat that dies” — the symbol of my crucifixion — will become bread of life for the world through my resurrection. It will be a light for peoples and for cultures. Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will take place in the very depths to which the grain of wheat refers, attracting to itself the forces of heaven and earth and becoming bread.

In other words, Jesus was prophesying that the Church of the Greeks, the Church of pagans, and the Church of the world would be the fruit of his paschal mystery.

According to some very ancient traditions, Andrew, who transmitted these words to the Greeks, was not only the interpreter for the Greeks at the meeting with Christ that we just mentioned, but was considered to be the Apostle to the Greeks during the years following Pentecost. They tell us that that he proclaimed and explained Jesus to the Greek world for the rest of his life. Peter, his brother, went to Rome, leaving Jerusalem and passing through Antioch, in order to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, however, was the apostle to the Greek world.

In this way, both in life and in death, they truly appear as brothers, a fraternal bond that is expressed symbolically by the special relationship between the Sees of Rome and Constantinople, Churches that are truly sister Churches.

Andrew’s Death

A later tradition, as I mentioned earlier, recounts the story of Andrew’s death in Patras, where he was executed by crucifixion. However, at that great moment, like his brother Peter, he asked to be placed on a cross that was different from Jesus’ cross. In his case, it was on a diagonal cross, that is, a cross set on its side, which has thus come to be known as “St. Andrew’s Cross.”

According to an ancient narrative (from the beginning of the sixth century) entitled The Passion of Andrew, this is what the Apostle said at that time: “Hail, O cross, that the body of Christ inaugurated and that was adorned with his members as if they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you struck awe upon the earth. Now, however, blessed with celestial love, you will be welcomed as a gift. Believers will know how much joy you possess, how many gifts you have prepared. Confident, therefore, and full of joy, I come so that you will also receive me exultantly as a disciple of the one who was hung from you. … Blessed cross, which received the majesty and beauty of the members of the Lord … take me and lead me far from men and hand me over to my Master so that, through you, he will receive me, he who, through you, has redeemed me. Hail, O cross, yes, truly hail!”

As we can see, we have before us an extremely profound Christian spirituality, which sees the cross not as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means of a full assimilation with the Redeemer, the grain of wheat that has fallen to the ground.

We must learn a very important lesson from this: Our crosses acquire value if we see them and welcome them as part of Christ’s cross and if they are touched by the reflection of his light. It is only through that cross that our sufferings, too, are ennobled and attain their true meaning.

May the Apostle Andrew teach us to readily follow Jesus (see Matthew 4:20; Mark 1:18), to speak enthusiastically about him to everyone we meet, and, above all, to cultivate a relationship of true friendship with him, well aware of the fact that only in him can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death.

(Register translation)