The homily of Fr James Walls, Spiritual Director, from Mass on the Solemnity of St. Andrew, 2018.
The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound.
These words echo the popular hymn How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him, who brings good news, Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness: Our God reigns, our God reigns! For those of us of a particular vintage this hymn conjures up sunny memories of a blisteringly hot day in the summer of 1982. This was the day that Pope John Paul II now St John Paul celebrated Mass in Bellahouston Park for 300,000 of the faithful. That day our nation was sent a preacher of the Good News…one formed in Poland…but whose voice went out ‘through all the earth…and who carried the message of Christ…to the ends of the world.’
That day in preaching the word of Christ the Pope reminded us that, ‘Of all the expressions of faith none was more spontaneous than that uttered by Andrew, the fisherman of Galilee: “We have found the Messiah!”
It was Andrew, the heavenly patron of our beloved Scotland, who introduced Peter to Jesus!’
He went on to stress: ‘Today…the Successor of Peter comes to visit the spiritual children of Andrew! We are bound one to another by a supernatural brotherhood stronger than that of blood. Here and now we testify that we profess that identical faith in Jesus, and we firmly hope that we too can lead others to him.’
That link between the Successor of Peter and the spiritual children of Andrew is embodied within this College Community. For four hundred years under the patronage of St Andrew a body of Scotsmen have lived and prayed in Rome under the protection of the Holy Father with the sole purpose of being formed in the faith in order to return to Scotland so that others may be led to Him. For this great gift to the Church in Scotland, on this our Patronal Feast, we give thanks to God. For the guidance and example of St Andrew we give thanks to God. For all the men who have lived and served in this community throughout the past 400 years we give thanks to God. For the Popes and the Cardinal Protectors of the College we give thanks to God. For all those who have faithfully served in this College, the religious sisters, the staff, we give thanks to God, and finally, but certainly not least, for those men who compose the living breathing community of today… we give thanks to God.
God has gifted our college, and indeed our nation with a patron saint who has been honoured with the title protokletos, the ‘first called’…we heard today the account of his calling, along with his brother Peter, whilst making a cast with their net into the sea of Galilee; how could these simple fishermen have realised that that net would eventually reach the shores of Scotland, how could those simple fishermen have foreseen that working together with the Lord their feet would walk the highways and byways of the known world, preaching the name, the saving, the healing name, of Jesus of Nazareth. How could they have known that they would willingly give up their lives in imitation of the One who called them that day on the Sea of Galilee.
In John’s Gospel we are given another encounter between Jesus and Andrew on the shore of the Sea of Galilee whereby Andrew asks Jesus ‘where he lives’ and Jesus invites him to ‘Come and see’…come and spend time with me…Pope Benedict commenting on this text noted ‘Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus.’ In these first encounters with the Lord we are provided with the rudiments of our priestly formation…leave everything and follow me…devote yourself to me…spend time with me…get to know me…in getting to know me…fall in love with me…in falling in love with me… become One with me…in becoming one with me you will reveal my face, my name, my saving grace to the world…you will continue my mission…you will follow me in pouring out your life so that others may know, so that others may be led to Me.
The key to our life of following the Master is indeed ‘moments of intimacy with Jesus’.
Moments when God can imbue our spirits with His Spirit, when our hearts and minds are gently remoulded in the Silence of His Divine Presence. Our College is conducive to ‘moments of intimacy with Jesus’. Through our liturgies, through the silence that permeates this College we can sense that divine intimacy, the divine goodness, the divine invitation that Andrew immediately responded to on the shore of Galilee. That call, that invitation, echoes endlessly throughout the ages and men and women of courage have responded to it by walking the path of selfless love…even to the utmost ends of the world …whilst all the while maintaining that link of familial affection…with the See of Peter…
Pope St John Paul took up this theme in his homily that sunny day:
‘Although situated geographically on the remote edge of Europe, the Church in Scotland became especially dear to the Popes, at the centre and heart of Christianity, and they conferred upon it the exceptional title “Special Daughter of the Roman Church!”
He concluded: ‘What a magnificent designation!’
Special daughter of the Roman Church…Scotland is, we are, indeed linked to the heart of Catholicism by a special bond…by a bond of faith that’s typified in St Ninian’s fifth century formation in Rome and subsequent return and preaching of the faith in Scotland. A faith that was nourished by the relics of St Andrew, and encouraged by our good queen St Margaret.
Those of us who have remained faithful to his wonderful heritage are called to understand that Jesus has a specific task in life for each and every one of us. Each one of us is hand-picked, called by name – by Jesus! There is no one among us who does not have a divine vocation! Through our baptism we are called to proclaim God’s saving love to the world, we are called to make know the message to the ages. Through responding to the call to the priesthood we are offering our meagre lives to make fragrant our country with the odour, and ardour of faith, and we do this thankfully.
Yesterday in St Peter’s we were confronted with several remarkable statues of St Andrew bearing his X-shaped cross. A firm reminder that Andrew followed our Lord unto death, and according to an ancient story that dates back to the beginning of the sixth century he cries out:
“Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift.
“Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you…. O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord’s limbs!… Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!”.
Pope Benedict commenting upon his story in a Wednesday audience observed:
‘Here, as can be seen, is a very profound Christian spirituality. It does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.’
We come here to Rome to be buried as the grain of wheat, so that our husks may die, and our inner selves be made new. In doing this we too can return to Scotland trusting that it is with Jesus’ heart and mind that we act and think and offer our lives in witness.