The Greater the Love

From “Sermon on the Anniversary of His Episcopal Consecration” (ca. 400-430)

If what I am “for” you frightens me, what I am “with” you reassures me. For you, I am the bishop; with you, I am a Christian. “Bishop,” this is the title of an office one has accepted to discharge; “Christian,” that is the name of the grace one receives. Dangerous title! Salutary name! We are tossed around in the whirlpool of that activity as in an immense sea. But, reminding ourselves of the blood with which we were ransomed, and calmed by this thought, we enter, as it were, into a safe harbor.

Laboring in a personal task, we find rest in the blessing that is common to all. If I am more pleased to have been redeemed with you, than to be your head, I shall more fully be your servant, and this is what the Lord commands. May I thus not be accountable for the price in virtue of which I have received the favor of being your companion in serving.

For I must love my Redeemer and I know what he said to Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep.” He said that once, twice, three times. He questioned him about love; he commanded the labor, for the greater the love, the lighter the burden. “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?”

Should I dare to say that I reimburse him because I lead his flock to pasture? I am doing that, of course, but not I, “The grace of God with me.” Where then can I discover what is due to me if he goes before me everywhere? For one cannot ask any salary from him whom he loves gratuitously unless the salary is the very one who is loved.

St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. His feast day is August 26.

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