Wednesday, 19 September 2012
From a sermon On Pastors by Saint Augustine, bishop. Let each one seek not what is his but what is Christ’s
I have explained what it means to consume milk. Now let us consider what it means to clothe with wool. One who gives milk gives sustenance, while one who gives wool gives honor. These are precisely the two things that pastors, who feed themselves and not the sheep, look for from the people — the benefit of having their wants supplied as well as the favor of honor and praise.
Yes, clothing can well be taken to mean honor, since it covers nakedness. For every man without exception is weak. And who is any man placed over you except someone just like yourself. Your pastor is in the flesh, he is mortal, he eats, sleeps and awakens; he was born and he is going to die. In himself he is, when you think of it, simply a man. But it is true that you make him something more by giving him honor; it is as if you were covering what is weak.
Consider the nature of the clothing that the apostle Paul received from God’s good people. He said: You have received me like an angel of God. I testify that if it were possible you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Indeed great honor was shown to him. But did he then spare sinners becuase of that honor, perhaps out of fear that it would be refused and that he would receive less praise when he gave blame? Had he done so, he would be among those shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep. He would then say to himself: “What has this to do with me? Let everyone do what he will; my sustenance is safe, and my honor too. I have enough milk and wool, so let each one do as he likes.” But then are things really secure for you if each one does as he pleases? I do not want to make you a leader over th epeople but one of them. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with him.
In recalling how they treated him, the Apostle does not want to appear forgetful of the honor they did him. Therefore he gives testimony that they recived him like an angel of God, that if it were possible, they were willing to tear out their eyes and give them to him. Yet he still comes to the sheep that is ill, to the one that is diseased, to cut the wound and not to spare the diseased part. He says: Have I then become your enemy by preaching the truth? He took from the milk of the sheep, as I mentioned a short time ago, and he was clothed with their wool, but he did not neglect his sheep. He did not seek what was his but what was Christ’s.