The Brother of Peter with a Greek Name
Sometimes, being the sibling of a more outgoing brother or sister can be difficult. It is not always easy to be perceived as the second fiddle to someone else, especially a relative. However, St. Andrew, although he was the brother of St. Peter, who certainly was no shrinking violet, does not seem to have been bothered by living in his brother's shadow.
His name Andrew is interesting because it is actually a Greek name (meaning "manly") instead of a Hebrew name. And, we have no reason to believe that Andrew had a name change like Peter did because it is not mentioned in Scripture. It is true that the area of Galilee, where Peter and Andrew grew up, was heavily influenced by Greek culture, and Greek would have been spoken there. Nevertheless, it still would be unusual for Jewish parents to give their son a Greek name.
Another possible explanation is that sometimes, the Jews who dealt more with Gentiles would have two names--one Hebrew and one Greek. That seems to be the case with the former tax collector St. Matthew who is also known as Levi. And, that is also the case with St. Paul whose Hebrew name was Saul like the first king of Israel. If that is the case, we do not know Andrew's Hebrew name.
Also, there is a commonly held idea that the disciples would have been illiterate. This is often supported by the when the Sanhedrin referred to the apostles as "unlearned and ignorant men." (Acts 4:13) However, the evidence is more in favor of the fact that Peter and Andrew would have gone to school primarily in order to learn to read Scripture, the Torah, in particular. Pious Jews were supposed to live in villages with schools, and the boys would attend school until around the age of thirteen. However, compared to the members of the Sanhedrin, who would have studied for many more years, Peter and Andrew would be considered by them as unlearned.
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What we know from Scripture about Andrew
Except for one reference in the book of Acts, everything we know about Andrew from Scripture comes from the four Gospels. We know that Andrew is the brother of Simon Peter and that his brother and he had been fisherman before they left everything and followed Jesus. They lived in Capernaum because that is where their house is. (Mk 1:29)
We also assume that, unlike Peter, Andrew was unmarried. This would have been unusual for the time, but there were, of course others who lived a life of chastity such as John the Baptist.
Despite being the brother of Peter, Andrew is not one of the inner three that Jesus chooses for being with Him in the moments of healing Jairus' daughter (Lk 8:40-56), the transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36), and in the Garden of Gethsemane before He is arrested (Mt 26:36-46). That is reserved for Peter, James, and John. In fact, the one time that the four of them are listed together, Andrew is listed last after Peter, James, and John. (Mk 13:3)
However, we do get an insight into who Andrew is from three accounts in St. John's Gospel.
Bringing his Brother to Christ
In the first place, it seems that Philip and Andrew were close because in two these accounts there seems to be a connection between them.
First, we learn that Andrew was one of St. John the Baptist's disciples. Thus, we know that he was preparing himself for the coming of the kingdom through repentance and striving to follow John's exhortations to live a life that was pleasing to God. And we know that he was serious about following John the Baptist, because he would have had to take time away from his fishing business to travel eighty miles away to see this new Elijah in the desert.
When John points to Jesus and says, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (Jn 1:36), Andrew and the other disciple of John follow Jesus. After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew finds his brother Simon and tells him, "We have found the Messiah." (Jn 1:41) Then he brings Simon to Jesus and Jesus changes Simon's name to Cephas (which means Peter). (Jn 1:42)
From this story, we get the picture of Andrew as someone who wants to bring others to the Lord. Certainly, he loves his brother Peter and is excited to tell him the good news that the Messiah has come.
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Helping the Lord Feed the Multitude
Second, when Jesus saw a large crowd coming toward Him and, He asked Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" (Jn 6:5) Now, St. John points out that Jesus asked Philip this question to test him. Philip replies that even 200 days of wages would not feed this hungry crowd.
It does not say this in the Gospel, but we can imagine that Philip might have talked to Andrew about what had just happened when Jesus asked him how could bread be bought to feed the multitude.
It seems that once Andrew heard this, he started to try to answer the question. Unlike Philip, he does not simply throw up his hands at what seems to be a ridiculous request. Instead, Andrew goes in search of food.
The next thing that is reported is Andrew said to Jesus that there is a boy who had five loaves and two fish. He quickly added, "But what are they among so many?" (Jn 6:9)
It is a small act of faith on Andrew's part. He was looking for a way to answer Jesus' question and he found a boy with some food. Although, he was doubtful, he still offered his idea and brought the child to Jesus.
What does Jesus do with Andrew's small act of faith? He takes it and the gift from the boy Andrew brought to him and He multiplied it to feed over five thousand people.
Interestingly, the fragments that are gathered fill up twelve baskets. For the disciple Andrew, that number would be significant because Jesus came to restore the twelve tribes of Israel.
The other impact of Andrew's action is it helped prepare the way for Jesus' discourse on the Eucharist which takes place not long after the feeding of the five thousand.
Bringing Greeks to Jesus
The third account is probably one that is less familiar. It occurred after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a young donkey.
St. John reported that some Greeks who were in Jerusalem to worship at the feast of the Passover wanted to meet with Jesus. Now these were probably either Gentile converts to Judaism or so called "God fearers" who were men who were attracted to Judaism but who had not been circumcised.
They approached St. Philip who perhaps was not sure what to do. Then Philip told Andrew. Andrew went with Philip and told Jesus about the request to see Him. After pointing out before in his Gospel (2:4 and 7:30) that Jesus' hour had not yet come, St. John now records that Jesus responded to Andrew when He said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." (Jn 12:23)
The request from the Greeks was a catalyst for the Passion of the Lord that would soon take place. It was also a sign that the Lord's death and resurrection would not only be for the house of Israel, it would be for all people whether of Jewish or Gentile origin.
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The Fisher of Men
In all three of these incidents we see St. Andrew as a fisher of men. He simply brought people to Jesus. First, he brought his brother Peter who would become the leader of the disciples and be made the Vicar of Christ. Then, Andrew brought the boy with the loaves and fishes. And, finally, he brought the Greeks who helped trigger Jesus' "hour".
Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, each of us is also called to be a fisher of men. What happens after that is not necessarily our concern. It is the Lord's work.
Andrew probably did not know what would happen when he brought Peter to Jesus. He just knew that he wanted to share the Lord with his brother. Also, Andrew probably did not know what would happen when he brought the boy with the fishes and loaves to Jesus. He just knew that this was a boy who had some food that he was willing to share. And, Andrew did not know what would happen when he brought the Greeks to Jesus. He just knew that they wanted to meet the Lord.
We are all called to bring people to Christ. It might be through our actions. It might be through our words. And it might be through prayer. Perhaps it should be all three. We should pray to the Lord that we would have the grace to be His fishers of men however He wants to use us.
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Feast Day: November 30th
Patron of anglers
Patron of sailors
Patron of happy marriages
Patron of unmarried women
Patron of farm workers
Patron of miners
Patron of singers