View from Mount Tabor

Unlike some of the other hills featured in Jesus’ public ministry, Mount Tabor is truly a mountain. As our bus climbed the windy roads and I looked down at the countryside, I thought back to the line of Scripture which will open this Sunday’s Gospel: “Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up to a high mountain apart by themselves” (Mk. 9:2).

This wasn’t like the Mount of Beatitudes or even the “deserted place,” the Gospel writers speak of, both of which were fairly accessible for his followers. It’s quite a hike to the top of Mount Tabor, and would have truly been a journey taken apart from the other Apostles. It’s no wonder that when the four return to the bottom, those left behind are dealing with the crowds and their needs. Jesus, Peter, James, and John were not gone for a few minutes, but (it seems to me at least) possibly for a day (Mk 9:14).

Peter, James, and John were personally chosen to accompany Jesus apart from the other nine, just as they will be chosen to come a little further into the Garden with him to pray (Mk 14:33). So my thoughts naturally went to Andrew. Poor Andrew. This was the apostle who brought his brother Peter to Jesus (John 1:41). Now he watches his brother be taken into the Lord’s inner circle, along with two other brothers, James and John. What about poor Andrew?

We forget sometimes that these men are not just figures on a page or granite statues in a church. These were men, with feelings and faults and emotions and questions. How did Andrew feel, to see his brother and two other brothers taken into the Lord’s inner circle? We might think this weekend about the events of the Transfiguration, but have we ever stopped to think about Andrew at this moment? What was he feeling? What was he struggling with in his brother’s absence?

We don’t know, of course. We won’t know the details of Andrew’s spiritual journey until heaven. But I know what I would be feeling. Because I feel similar feelings often.

When I see the talents that others possess and wonder why I don’t possess them; when I see the spiritual gifts showered on others and wonder why I don’t receive them; when I see the success or popularity of others and wonder why I don’t have them: I could learn from Andrew.

He is, perhaps, the whole reason we have St. Peter as our first Pope. He’s the one responsible for Peter meeting the Lord! And yet he then disappears into the background. He seems to be the only Apostle with a head on his shoulders in the hungry crowd and finds the boy with loaves and fish (Jn 6:8), but then steps back and lets the Lord work.

What can we learn from Andrew? Humility. What matters most to him is not credit or the spotlight, but bringing others to Christ and then letting Christ work.

There will be some people in our lives that will be more successful, more popular, more loved. There will be people who are better than you at your skill or craft. Or perhaps, more frustratingly, there will be people who aren’t better but who get the promotion, who get published, who get record deals, or who get the recognition from the boss. There will be those who get the perfect little Catholic family in the perfect little house, or the perfect parish with the perfect parishioners.

Learn from Andrew.

He was not in the inner circle. We don’t know why. We don’t know how he might have struggled with that throughout his life. But we do know that he continued to bring people to the Messiah, as we’ll see in a few weeks (John 12:22).

He knew his place and his vocation: to bring others to Christ. It doesn’t matter what material or spiritual gifts we have been given or in what proportion. It doesn’t matter if we’re the man with the one talent or the five (Mt 25:14-30). It doesn’t matter whether we’ve been working in the vineyard for one hour or ten (Mt 20:1-16). What matters is that we are working with the gifts we’ve been given to bring people to Christ.

Learn from Andrew.

When you listen to the familiar story of the Transfiguration this Sunday, take note of who is not there. Andrew. Everyone receives different gifts in different proportions. We don’t deserve any of the gifts we have been given. Instead of dwelling on what others have been given, use the gifts you have to bring people to Christ.

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