As I start to dig through the pope’s encyclical, I’ve been wondering: why Andrew? Why did the pope decide to issue this particular letter on this particular feast? John Allen speculates that it may be St. Andrew’s connection to the eastern church — an ecumenical hat tip.
But I think there is more to it than that.
Andrew, you’ll remember, was the brother of Simon Peter. And it was Andrew who first encountered Christ, and who then introduced him to his brother. Perhaps Benedict is saying, likewise, it is hope that leads us to Christ; we can’t meet Him without it. It is the beginning of our relationship with Him, the central force for our encounter with Him.
I was struck by this passage:
Anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30). Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life”—the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life. Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.
So, in a sense, perhaps, our relationship to The One who is Love begins with Hope.
And we have St. Andrew to thank for that.