06 February 2006

(Spiritual) Fathers & Sons

I find it rather curious that St Andrew, one of the Twelve Apostles, was first a disciple of St John the Baptizer. The curious thing is not that St Andrew was a disciple of St John. The curious thing is that St John the Baptizer had several other disciples, and not all of them followed Jesus as quickly as St Andrew did. In fact, some are still with St John at the time of his death. The curious thing, then, is why St Andrew feels compelled to leave St John the Baptizer, while the other disciples of St John feel no similar compulsion.

As you know, it’s not an easy thing to switch allegiances. And I’m sure it wasn’t an easy thing for a disciple to leave one rabbi (teacher) in order to join himself to another. After all, a disciple was more than a student. Especially in St Andrew’s day, a disciple was seen to be a spiritual son. In other words, the relationship between disciple and rabbi was as close as the relationship between a father and son.

Because of this, a disciple usually lived with his teacher and followed him wherever he went. You see, the disciple did not latch onto a rabbi so that he could learn facts about religion. A disciple wanted to learn the religious life—he wanted to learn not so much what to believe, as much as he wanted to learn how to live the faith. And to learn the “how,” you had to observe the way the rabbi spoke and lived and dealt with people, as well as what he said.

That’s what St Andrew did. With St John’s consent, St Andrew placed himself in St John’s service so that he could learn the life of holiness from this pious rabbi. St Andrew willingly and freely gave himself over to St John. And St John, in turn, took him in as his spiritual son. And as it is with good sons, St Andrew strove to be obedient and to please his spiritual father—not just in what he said, but also in everything that he did.

The relationship of father and son ought not be easily broken; and it ought to remain for life.

Now this is the curious thing—St Andrew easily and quickly breaks with St John the Baptizer, and latches onto Jesus as his “new” spiritual father.

But why? Because he listened faithfully, carefully and obediently to St John—his spiritual father. Here’s how it happened.

John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard John speak, and they followed Jesus. One of the disciples who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. (Jn 1.35-37, 40)
From this, we can conclude that St Andrew switched rabbis (from John to Jesus) because he believed his spiritual father. After all, St Andrew had been carefully listening to all that St John the Baptizer said. And before this episode took place, St John had said, “There is One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (Jn 1.26-27)

So when St John the Baptizer says, “There He is, the Lamb of God; the One I was talking about; the One whose way I’ve been preparing; the One whom you should prefer”—St Andrew hears, believes and then acts upon his rabbi’s words. In other words, St Andrew switches allegiances simply because he is obedient to his spiritual father. The preacher says, “There is the Christ,” and the loyal disciple joins himself to Him.

A second curious thing, however, is that not all of St John’s disciples did what St Andrew did—at least, not as quickly and as obediently. In other words, not all spiritual children heeded the voice of their spiritual father, especially when he said, “There is the Christ. He is the Way. Go to Him!”

We know this because, when St John the Baptizer was in prison about to be executed, he sent two of his remaining disciples to Jesus. So that they would not be embarrassed, he told them to ask their question as if it was his question. So they said to Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Mt 11.3)

These two disciples ask this question not because St John has his doubts, but because they are still not sure about what their spiritual father has told them and preached to them and taught them during his time with them. So, once again, St John points them to Jesus. Once again, the spiritual father says to his spiritual children, “Over there with Him—that’s where you need to be.”

I’m sure that St John the Baptizer rejoiced when St Andrew quickly heeded the words of his spiritual father. I’m equally convinced that St John continued to pray for the others who didn’t act as quickly, hoping that one day they too would have the courage to heed the counsel of their spiritual father.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent read!