St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of St. Peter, was the subject of Benedict XVI's catechesis during Wednesday's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 35,000 people.
The name of Andrew, not Hebrew but Greek, is "an appreciable sign of a certain cultural openness of his family," said the Pope. "He was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus," and thanks to Andrew (according to tradition, the evangelizer of the Greek world), "the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople feel themselves to be sisters."
The Holy Father pointed out how the Gospels mention Andrew in three key moments: The multiplication of the loaves and fishes when "his realism is worthy of note, he saw the boy [with the bread and fish] but noticed the scarcity of his resources." When asking explanations from Christ on His words concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, he showed that "we must not be afraid to put questions to Jesus, but at the same time we must be ready to accept the teaching He offers us." And again, shortly before the Passion, with Philip, "he interpreted and mediated for a small group of Greeks before Jesus."
Referring to this last episode, the Holy Father recalled Jesus' words on the necessary death of a grain of wheat in order to bear fruit, a symbol of the crucifixion that "in the resurrection will become bread of life for the world, a light for people and cultures." Christ thus prophesies the meeting with the Greek world and Greek culture and the extension of the Church "to pagans as a fruit of His Passion."
Tradition recounts St. Andrew's death in Patras on a diagonal cross as, "like his brother Peter, he asked to be crucified on a cross different from that of Jesus." Benedict XVI then quoted the words attributed to St. Andrew during his agony when he said of the cross: "before the Lord was placed upon you, you incited earthly terrors. Now, blessed with a heavenly love, you are received as a gift."
This phrase, the Pope continued, contains "a profound Christian spirituality, which sees in the cross not so much an instrument of torture as the unrivaled means of full assimilation to the Redeemer. Our crosses acquire value if considered and accepted as part of the cross of Christ. Only from that cross do our sufferings become ennobled and acquire their true significance."