In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Scout, the protagonist, describes her first day walking to school with her older brother, Jem, who was then entering the fifth grade: “Jem condescended to take me to school the first day, a job usually done by one’s parents, but Atticus had said Jem would be delighted to show me where my room was. I think some money changed hands in this transaction… Jem was careful to explain that during school hours I was not to bother him, I was not to approach him with requests to enact a chapter of Tarzan and the Ant Men, to embarrass him with references to his private life, or tag along behind him at recess and noon. I was to stick with the first grade and he would stick with the fifth. In short, I was to leave him alone.”
I suppose that most younger siblings get that kind of talk on occasion. Always in the shadow of another. It would seem that St. Andrew, who we celebrate today, was no different. Lesser Feasts and Fasts states, “Most biographical notes on this Apostle begin ‘Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother,’” and even in the Gospel account we read today identified him by saying, “Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother.”
Even though he is named as one of the twelve apostles, it seems that he always takes a back seat to his older brother, Peter. Perhaps, in our Christian walk, we also believe that we take a back seat or walk in the shadows of others. It may be one of those great Saints that we believe we will never compare to or a person in our own lives that we know we will never equal – I suppose most of you look at me that way. (Ha!)
At issue is the fact that we have this habit of comparing and measuring worth. We do it in the world: this person is of greater worth than this one because this one has a higher paying job or has attained a certain amount of fame. We do it with sin: this sin is far greater than that sin. And we do it with our own lives when we consider it in the eyes of God: that person is of much greater worth to God than me. Yet Holy Scripture would refute that assumption and shows us that we are all needed for the good of the whole.
St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”
St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “Don’t be a fool! It’s true that at most you play the part of a little bolt in that great undertaking of Christ’s. But do you know what happens when a bolt is not tight enough or when it works itself out of place? Bigger parts also work loose or the gear-wheels get damaged and broken. The work is slowed up. Perhaps the whole machine will be rendered useless. What a big thing it is to be a little bolt!”
Your role may be small in the great undertakings of Christ’s, but you are of infinite worth; therefore, like Andrew, be faithful to what you are called and obedient to the One who called you.