Augustine on NT 146
146 On the words of the gospel, Jn 21,16 “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?” etc.
1). Ye have observed, beloved, that in to-day’s lesson it was said by the Lord to Peter in a question, “Lovest thou Me?” To whom he answered, “Thou knowest, Lord, that I love thee.” This was done a second, and a third time; and at each several reply, the Lord said, “Feed My lambs.”1 To Peter did Christ commend His lambs to be fed, who fed even Peter himself. For what could Peter do for the Lord, especially now that He had an Immortal Body, and was about to ascend into heaven? As though He had said to him, “‘Lovest thou Me?’ Herein show that thou lovest Me, ‘Feed my sheep.’“ So then, Brethren, do ye with obedience hear that ye are Christ’s sheep; seeing that we on our part with fear hear, Feed My sheep”? If we feed with fear, and fear for the sheep;these sheep how ought they to fear for themselves? Let then carefulness be our portion, obedience yours; pastoral watchfulness our portion, the humility of the flock yours. Although we too who seem to speak to you from a higher place, are with fear beneath your feet; forasmuch as we know how perilous an account must be rendered of this as it were exalted seat. Wherefore, dearly beloved, Catholic plants, Members of Christ, think What a Head ye have! Children of God, think What a Father ye have found. Christians, think What an Inheritance is promised you. Not such as on earth cannot be possessed by children, save when their parents are dead. For no one on earth possesses a father’s inheritance, save when be is dead. But we whilst our Father liveth shall possess what He shall give; for that our Father cannot die. I add more, I say more, and say the truth; our Father will Himself be our Inheritance.
2. Live consistently, especially ye candidates of Christ, recently baptized, just regenerated, as I have admonished you before, so say I now, and give expression to my solicitude; for the present lesson of the Gospel hath forced upon me a greater fear: take heed to yourselves, do not imitate evil Christians. Say not I will do this, for many of the faithful do it. This is not to procure a defence for the soul;but to look out for companions unto hell. Grow ye in this floor of the Lord; herein ye will find good men to please you, if ye yourselves are good. For are ye our private property? Heretics and schismatics have made their own private property out of what they have stolen from the Lord, and would feed, not Christ’s flocks, but their own against Christ. It is true indeed, they place His title on these their spoils, that their robberies may be as it were maintained by the title of His Power. What doeth Christ when such as these are converted, who have received the title of His Baptism out of the Church? He casteth out the spoiler, He doth not efface the title, and taketh possession of the house; because He hath found His title there. What need is there that He should change His Own Name? Do they take heed to what the Lord said to Peter, “Feed My lambs, feed My sheep”? Did He say to him, “Feed thy lambs;” or, “Feed thy sheep”? But for them who are shut out, what said He in the Song of Songs, unto the Church? The Spouse speaking to the Bride, saith, “If thou know not thyself, O thou fair one among women, go forth.”2 As though He said, “I do not cast thee out, ‘go forth, if thou know not thyself, O thou fair one among women,’ if thou know not thyself in the mirror of divine Scripture, if thou give not heed, O thou fair woman, to the mirror which with no false lustre deceiveth thee; if thou know not that of thee it is said, ‘Thy glory shall be above all earth;’3 that of thee it is said, ‘I will give thee nations for thine inheritance, and the limits of the earth for thy possession;’4 and other innumerable testimonies which set forth the Catholic Church. If then thou know not these, thou hast no part in Me, thou canst not make thyself My heir. ‘Go forth then in the footsteps of the flocks’ not in the fellowship of the flock; and feed thy goats, not as it was said to Peter, ‘My sheep.’“ To Peter it was said, “My sheep;” to schismatics it is said,” thy goats.” In the oneplace “sheep,” in the other “goats;” in the one place “Mine,” in the other” thine.” Recollect the right Hand and the left of our Judge; recollect where the goats shall stand, and where the sheep;5 and it will be plain to you where is the right hand, where the left, the white and the black, the lightsome, and the darksome, the fair and the deformed, that which is about to receive the kingdom, and that which is to find everlasting punishment.
147 On the same words of the gospel of Jn 21,15 “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these?” etc.
1). Ye remember that the Apostle Peter, the first of all the Apostles, was disturbed at the Lord’s Passion. Of his own self disturbed, but by Christ renewed. For he was first a bold presumer, and became afterwards a timid denier. He had promised that he would die for the Lord, when the Lord was first to die for him. When he said then, “I will be with Thee even unto death,” and “I will lay down my life for Thee;” the Lord answered him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for Me? Verily I say unto thee, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.”1 They came to the hour; and because that Christ was God, and Peter a man, the Scripture was fulfilled, “I said in my panic, Every man is a liar.”2 And the Apostle says, “For God is true, and every man a liar.”3 Christ true, Peter a liar.
2. But what now? The Lord asketh him as ye heard when the Gospel was being read, and saith to him, “Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these?” He answered and said, “Yea Lord Thou knowest that I love Thee.”4 And again the Lord asked this question, and a third time He asked it. And when he asserted in reply his love, He commended to him the flock. For each several time the Lord Jesus said to Peter, as he said, “I love thee;” “Feed My lambs,” feed My “little sheep.” In this one Peter was figured the unity of all pastors, of good pastors, that is, who know that they feed Christ’s sheep for Christ, not for themselves. Was Peter at this time a liar, or did he answer untruly that he loved the Lord? He made this answer truly; for he made answer of that which he saw in his own heart. Whereas when he said, “I will lay down my life for Thee,” he would presume on future strength. Now every man knows it may be what sort of man he is at the time when he is speaking; what he shall be on the morrow, who knows? So then Peter turned back his eyes to his own heart, when he was asked by the Lord, and in confidence made answer of what he saw there: “‘Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ What I tell Thee, Thou knowest; what I see here in my heart, Thou seest also.” Nevertheless, he did not venture to say what the Lord had asked. For the Lord had not simply said, “Lovest Thou me?” but had added, “Lovest thou Me more than these?” that is, “Lovest thou Me more than these here do?” He was speaking of the other disciples; Peter could not say ought but, “I love Thee;” he did not venture to say, “more than these.” He would not be a liar a second time. It were enough for him to bear testimony to his own heart; it was no duty of his to be judge of the heart of others).
3. Peter then was true; or rather was Christ true in Peter? Now when the Lord Jesus Christ would, He abandoned Peter, and Peter was found a man; but when it so pleased the Lord Jesus Christ, He filled Peter, and Peter was found true. The Rock (Petra) made Peter true, for the Rock was Christ. And what did He announce to him, when he answered a third time that he loved Christ, and a third time the Lord commended His little sheep to Peter? He announced to him beforehand his suffering. “When thou wast young,” saith He, “thou girdedst thyself, and wentest whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thine hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”5 The Evangelist hath explained to us Christ’s meaning. “This spake He,” saith he, “signifying by what death he should glorify God;”6 that is that he was crucified for Christ; for this is, “Thou shalt stretch forth thine hands.” Where now is that denier? Then after this the Lord Christ said, “Follow Me.” Not in the same sense as before, when he called the disciples. For then too He said, “Follow Me;” but then to instruction, now to a crown. Was he not afraid to be put to death when he denied Christ? He was afraid to suffer that which Christ suffered. But now he must be afraid no more. For he saw Him now Alive in the Flesh, whom he had seen hanging on the Tree. By His Resurrection Christ took away the fear of death; and forasmuch as He had taken away the fear of death, with good reason did He enquire of Peter’s love. Fear had thrice denied, love thrice confessed. The7 threefoldness of denial, the forsaking of the Truth; the threefoldhess of confession, the testimony of love.parparpar
1 (Jn 21,15).
2 (Ct 1,8 Sept.
3 (Ps 57,11
4 (Ps 2,8
5 (Mt 25,33
1 (Mt 26,34 Lc 22,33 Jn 13,37-38
2 (Ps 116,11
3 (Rm 3,4
4 (Jn 21,15).
5 (Jn 21,18
6 (Jn 21,19
Augustine on NT 146