Sunday, January 18, 2015

St. Andrew the Awkward

We often like to describe the Christian life as a journey. We do it so often it kind of makes me gag a little. I feel like Christian literature is all too full of journey metaphors. I'm sure you all know the story about  one or two sets of footprints in the sand, and although I think the footprint story is a bit overused, it is important to notice that it wasn't buttprints in the sand, it was footprints. In our life as Christians, we are going somewhere, and it's not here. The Christian life is about a constant movement closer to the most Holy Trinity, it's not about standing still. Jesus is going to accept you wherever you're at, as long as you are trying to move from where you are at towards him.

I'm talking about movement for a reason, because it's important to notice how John is using the actions of standing and walking in our gospel today. It says John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples. So they're still, they're stationary, they're not going anywhere. Following John the Baptist couldn't take you anywhere. John couldn't save you from your sins. But then when John points at Jesus, who is walking, they begin walking and following, they become followers of Christ. Jesus is going somewhere. Being a disciple of Jesus requires action, it takes work to follow him, but he can take you somewhere, he can take you to heaven, and all that is symbolized by John the Baptist standing still and Jesus walking by.

So Jesus walks by, John points at him as he walks and says, "Behold the Lamb of God," and the two disciples, one of whom is Andrew, the brother of Peter, they leave their stationary position, their position of stillness with John that wasn't taking them anywhere, and they start doing the hard work of following Jesus. But then, Jesus sees them following, he turns and says "What are you looking for?" Now, this is not a light question like, "Oh, did you lose something on the ground?" No, this is a question loaded with weight, like "What do you seek?" And St. Andrew, let's call him St. Andrew the Awkward, does he rise to the occasion? Does he answer the heavy question with a worthy answer like, "I seek truth," or, "I seek the Messiah"? No, St. Andrew the Awkward responds to Jesus' deep question with, "Uh, where are you staying?"

St. Andrew in St. Peter's Basilica
He's not ready yet to respond fully to John the Baptist's revelation or Jesus' demands. He's not even sure what the revelation or demands are. But when John points to Jesus, something in Andrew's heart responds, and even though he doesn't fully understand, he knows that that guy walking by, that guy who is going to make demands on me, that Lamb of God, is who I want to follow. I don't know where he's going, I don't know where he's taking me, if he asks me a question I don't even know what the right answer is, but none of that matters. I want to follow him.

Andrew's example is helpful for us here, because he shows us that we don't have to have everything figured out in order to follow Jesus, we just have to be brave enough to take the next step. Jesus doesn't reprimand Andrew for his less-than-stellar answer, but rather he responds with an invitation: "Come, and you will see." Jesus meets Andrew right where Andrew is, but he doesn't leave him there, he takes him further.

And in that is an important realization. The Christian life is not about standing still, it's about moving forward. Again, it's not buttprints in the sand, but footprints. We don't have to have it all figured out, we don't have to be free of all sins, we don't have to perfectly understand God or what he wants from us, but we have to keep trying. We have to follow our Lord with all of our awkwardness and cluelessness like St. Andrew the Awkward and just keep trying.

Even if your prayers aren't well composed like the beautiful prayers of the Mass, even if they're more like, "God, can you help me with that thing I screwed up? Yes, again? Thanks, bye," God can handle it! As long as you keep trying!

No matter how awkward you may be, God can handle it! The important thing is that you keep moving forward. Every day you should be striving to love God and his people more than you did yesterday. Because even more than the Christian life is a journey, it's a friendship, a relationship. It's the most important relationship in your life. No saint ever became a saint by saying, "I love God enough now." They became saints by constantly searching their lives for how they could love God better and more completely, and finding new areas of their lives to surrender to Him.

If you settled in the other relationships in your life, if you said, "Yes, I love my wife enough now, I don't need to find new and better ways to love her," I promise you, you wouldn't be married for much longer. God deserves the same. And it starts with the basics. Daily intentional prayer, not a daily passing thought towards God, but time set aside every day for God. Working on the sins that separate us from God. Mass every Sunday. And not just going to Church, but praying the Mass, following attentively with your mind and your heart through all the beautiful motions of the Mass. Never just "go to church." Confession every month. We can never settle for "good enough." Never ever settle in this Christian life, in this relationship with Jesus, but constantly strive to move forward. The reason for this is love. All the relationships in our life nourish us, and if our relationship with Jesus doesn't nourish us at least as much as every other one does, then it's clear our relationship with him needs a lot of work. Jesus doesn't want to give you a life of obligations, but a life more full of love and joy than you could ever have on your own. But to have that, you can't sit still. No matter how imperfectly, you have to follow Jesus.

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