Tuesday, 25 September 2012
From a sermon On Pastors by St. Augustine, bishop - The Church, like a vine, spreads everywhere in her growth
They were scattered on every mountain and on every hill and over the entire face of the earth. What is the meaning of the phrase: They were scattered over the entire face of the earth? Some men continually strive for all the goods of the world, the goods that are so evident on the face of the earth; yes, they love and prize them. They do not want to die, to have their lives buried in Christ. Over the entire face of the earth: such men love earthly things; moreover such straying sheep are to be found over the entire face of the earth. They dwell in different places, but one mother, pride, has given birth to them all, just as one mother, our Catholic Church, has given birth to all faithful Christians scattered over the whole world.
Small wonder that pride gives birth to division, and love to unity. But our catholic mother is herself a shepherd; she seeks the straying sheep everywhere, strengthens the weak, heals the sick, and binds up the injured. They may not know one another, but she knows all of them because she reaches out to all her sheep.
Thus she is like a vine that is spread out everywhere in its growth. The straying sheep are like useless branches which because of their sterility are deservedly cut off, not to destroy the vine but to prune it. When these branches were cut down, they were left lying there. But the vine grew and flourished, and it knew both the branches that remained upon it and those that had been cut off and left lying beside it.
She calls the stray sheep back, however, because the Apostle said in reference to the broken branches: God has the power to graft them on again. Call them sheep straying from the flock or branches cut off from the vine, God is equally capable of calling back the sheep or of grafting the branches on again, for he is equally the chief shepherd and the true farmer. And they were scattered over the entire face of the earth, and there was no one to search for them, no one to call them back, that is to say, no one among those wicked shepherds. There was no one to search for them, that is, no one among men.
Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: I live, says the Lord God. Notice the beginning of this passage; it is as if God were taking an oath, giving testimony to his own life. I live, says the Lord. The shepherds are dead, but the sheep are safe, for the Lord lives. I live, says the Lord God. Which shepherds are dead? Those who seek what is theirs and not what is Christ’s. But will there be shepherds who seek what is Christ’s and not what is theirs, and will they be found? There will indeed be such shepherds, and they will indeed be found; they are not lacking, nor will they be lacking in the future.