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We have Found the Messiah

An address by Fr John Slater at St Paul’s Cathedral

30 November 2002 11:00 | Fr John Slater

This year, St Andrew’s Day falls on the very last day of the Church’s year. The annual cycle of feasts and fasts begins again tomorrow with the First Sunday of Advent. In the Book of Common Prayer, the Gospel reading for this last week of the year is the familiar story of the feeding of the 5,000. In that story, when Jesus asks, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? it is Andrew who brings a boy to Jesus and says, There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fishes, but what are they among so many? Andrew doesn’t sound at all confident that this can possibly make any difference, but Jesus can feed the crowds on the foundation of the boy’s generosity.

More familiarly, of course, Andrew also brought to Jesus his brother Simon. Our second reading this evening, from St John’s Gospel, tells us that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist; and that he became in turn a disciple of Jesus when he heard John say of Jesus, Behold the Lamb of God! Andrew not only followed Jesus himself, but also went to his brother to say, We have found the Messiah… the Christ. In both these stories, Andrew is a catalyst. His role may seem small, even insignificant, but it is essential to what Jesus achieves with the 5,000 and with Simon Peter.

In the Gospels, we often find Jesus saying Your faith has saved you… your faith has healed you. And when he finds no faith, as was the case when he visited his home town of Nazareth, Jesus performs no great miracles there but comments, A prophet is not without honour except in his own country and among his own

So it seems that the gift of faith is essential to Jesus’ work of nourishing, healing, restoring, redeeming. Faith, like Andrew, is a catalyst which brings together those in need and the power of God which can meet that need. In another Gospel story, men bring a sick man to Jesus and have to take the roof off the house in order to lower the man into the presence of the healer. The Gospel writer comments that it was when Jesus saw their faith that he healed the man. We should note that the story does not say that the sick man himself had faith but that his friends did, and on the strength of their faith the man is healed.

Faith, of course, is a major theme throughout the scriptures. St Paul says that, along with hope and love, faith is one of the three things which last for ever. And is by our faith that we find reconciliation with God. So Christians are called to be men and women of faith themselves - and also to share that faith with others. We cannot be unaware of how many people even in our own society live despairingly without faith or hope or love. How much more is this true of those who live in lands blighted by poverty and disease, war and violence, drought or flood.

The example of St Andrew shows us that it is not enough to have faith and to hold on to it for ourselves alone. It is one of those things which cannot be hoarded but which increases the more it is shared. So St Andrew’s Day has traditionally been a time when we pray for the missionary work of the Church - that generous and sacrificial commitment to bringing our brothers and sisters to the knowledge of God, and bringing God’s love to redeem and transform situations of human failure and tragedy.
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