Augustine's Exegesis of the Rock of Matthew 16:18
Excerpts - Compiled by William Webster
Electronic Format by Robert Glenn
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The excerpts that are compiled in this manuscript are only the thoughts of St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
Remember, in this man Peter, the rock. He's the one, you see, who on being
questioned by the Lord about who the disciples said he was, replied, 'You are
the Christ, the Son of the living God.' On hearing this, Jesus said to him,
'Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to
you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you'...'You are Peter, Rocky,
and on this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of the underworld will
not conquer her. To you shall I give the keys of the kingdom. Whatever you bind
on earth shall also be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall also
be loosed in heaven' (Mt
16:15-19). In Peter, Rocky, we see our
attention drawn to the rock. Now the apostle Paul says about the former people,
'They drank from the spiritual rock that was following them; but the rock was
Cor 10:4). So this disciple is called Rocky
from the rock, like Christian from Christ.
Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be recognized. Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter's confession. What is Peter's confession? 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' There's the rock for you, there's the foundation, there's where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer.1
You see, it was by this human form that the Lord-that is, the form of a servant:
he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil
2:7); so it was by this form of a servant that Peter's affection was also
held captive, when he was afraid of the one whom he loved so much having to die.
He loved the Lord Jesus Christ, you see, as one human being loves another; as
being of flesh loves a being of flesh, not as spiritual being loves the divine
majesty. How can we be sure of this? Because when the Lord had been questioning
his disciples about who he was said to be by the people, and they had given the
opinions of others as they recalled them, that some said he was John, others
Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets, he said to them, You, though,
who do you say that I am? And Peter, one speaking for the rest of them, one for
all, said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt
16:15-16). Excellent, couldn't be more true;
rightly did he deserve to receive a reply like this: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona,
because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my Father who
is in heaven. And I tell you, because you have told me; you have said something;
hear something; you have made a confession, receive a blessing; so: And I tell
you: you are Peter; because I am the rock, you are Rocky, Peter-I mean, rock
doesn't come from Rocky, but Rocky from rock, just as Christ doesn't come from
Christian, but Christian from Christ; and upon this rock I will build my Church
16:17-18); not upon Peter, or Rocky, which is
what you are, but upon the rock which you have confessed. I will build my Church
though; I will build you, because in this answer of yours you represent the
In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: 'On him as on a rock the Church was built.'...But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,' that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' For, 'Thou art Peter' and not 'Thou art the rock' was said to him. But 'the rock was Christ,' in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable.3
But whom say ye that I am? Peter answered, 'Thou art the Christ, The Son of the
living God.' One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to
him, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it
unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.' Then He added, 'and I say unto
thee.' As if He had said, 'Because thou hast said unto Me, "Thou art the Christ
the Son of the living God;" I also say unto thee, "Thou art Peter." For before
he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and in a
figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock
(Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original
name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as
Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ.
'Therefore,' he saith, 'Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock' which Thou hast
confessed, upon this rock which Thou hast acknowledged, saying, 'Thou art the
Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;' that is upon Myself,
the Son of the living God, 'will I build My Church.' I will build thee upon
Myself, not Myself upon Thee.
For men who wished to be built upon men, said, 'I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas,' who is Peter. But others who did not wish to built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, said, 'But I am of Christ.' And when the Apostle Paul ascertained that he was chosen, and Christ despised, he said, 'Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?' And, as not in the name of Paul, so neither in the name of Peter; but in the name of Christ: that Peter might be built upon the Rock, not the Rock upon Peter. This same Peter therefore who had been by the Rock pronounced 'blessed,' bearing the figure of the Church, holding the chief place in the Apostleship, a very little while after that he had heard that he was 'Peter,' a very little while after that he had heard that he was to be 'built upon the Rock,' displeased the Lord when he had heard of His future Passion, for he had foretold His disciples that it was soon to be. He feared lest he should by death, lose Him whom he had confessed as the fountain of life...Peter said to Christ, I am not willing that Thou shouldest die; but Christ far better said, I am willing to die for thee. And then He forthwith rebuked him, whom he had little before commended; and calleth him Satan, whom He had pronounced 'blessed.'...Let us, looking at ourselves in this member of the Church, distinguish what is of God and what of ourselves. For then we shall not totter, then we shall be founded on the Rock, shall be fixed and firm against the winds, and storms, and streams and temptations, I mean, of this present world. You see this Peter, who was then our figure; now he trusts, and now he totters; now he confesses the Undying, and now he fears lest he should die. Wherefore? because the Church of Christ hath both strong and weak ones; and cannot be without either strong or weak; whence the Apostle Paul says, 'Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.' In that Peter said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' he represents the strong: but in that he totters, and would not that Christ should suffer, in fearing death for Him, and not acknowledging the Life, he represents the weak ones of the Church. In that one Apostle then, that is, Peter, in the order of Apostles first and chiefest, in whom the Church was figured, both sorts were to be represented, that is, both the strong and weak; because the Church does not exist without them both.4
We recognize in heretics that baptism, which belongs not to the heretics but to Christ, in such sort as in fornicators, in unclean persons or effeminate, in idolators, in prisoners, in those who retain enmity, in those who are fond of contention, in the credulous, in the proud, given to seditions, in the envious, in drunkards, in revelers; and in men like these we hold valid the baptism which is not theirs but Christ's. For of men like these, and among them are included heretics also, none, as the apostle says, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Nor as they to be considered as being in the body of Christ, which is the Church, simply because they are materially partakers of the sacraments. For the sacraments indeed are holy, even in such men as these, and shall be of force in them to greater condemnation, because they handle and partake of them unworthily. But the men themselves are not within the constitution of the Church, which increases in the increase of God in its members through connection and contact with Christ. For that Church is founded on a rock, as the Lord says, 'Upon this rock I will build my Church.' But they build on the sand, as the same Lord says, 'Everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.' But that you may not suppose that the Church which is upon a rock is one part only of the earth, and does not extend even to its furthest boundaries, hear her voice groaning from the psalm, amid the evils of her pilgrimage. For she says, 'From the end of the earth have I cried unto Thee; when my heart was distressed Thou didst lift me up upon the rock; Thou hast led me, Thou, my hope, hast become a tower of courage from the face of the enemy.' See how she cries from the end of the earth. She is not therefore in Africa alone, nor only among the Africans, who send a bishop from Africa to Rome to a few Montenses, and into Spain to the houses of one lady. See how she is exalted on a rock. All, therefore, are not to be deemed to be in her which build upon the sand, that is, which hear the words of Christ and do them not, even though both among us and among you they have and transmit the sacrament of baptism. See how her hope is in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, not in Peter or in Paul, still less in Donatus or Petilianus.5
But take Peter too, my brothers and sisters; from where did he get it that he
could say out of love, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God? Where did
he get it from? Really from his own resources? Perish the thought! Its just as
well that this same passage of the gospel shows both things, what Peter got from
God's, what from his own resources. You've got them both there; read; there's
nothing you should be waiting to hear from me. I'll just remind you of the
gospel: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And the Lord to him:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. Why? Blessed from your own resources? No.
Because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you; that, after all, is what you
are. Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven
16:16-17). And he goes on to say more things
which it would take too long to mention.
Shortly afterward, after these words of his in which he approved of Peter's faith and showed that it was the rock, he began there and then to show his disciples that it would be necessary for him to come to Jerusalem, and suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the scribes and the priests, and be killed, and on the third day rise again.6
So the Lord will repay his faithful followers who are so lovingly, so cheerfully, so devotedly carrying out these works, to the effect that he includes them in the construction of his own building, into which they hasten to fit as living stones (1 Pt 2:5), fashioned by faith, made solidly firm by hope, cemented together by charity. This is the building in which that wise architect the apostle placed Christ Jesus as the foundation (1 Cor 3:10-11), also as the supreme cornerstone (Is 28:16); one which, as Peter also reminds us from the prophetic scripture, was rejected indeed by men, but chosen and honored by God (1 Pt 2:4; Ps 118:22). By adhering to this stone we are joined peaceably together; by resting on it we are fixed firmly in place. You see, he is at one and the same time the foundation stone, because he is the one who regulates us, and the cornerstone, because it is he that joins us together. He is the rock on which the wise man builds his house, and thus continues in utter security against all the trials and temptations of this world, neither collapsing when the rain pours down, nor being swept away when the river floods, nor overthrown when the winds blow.7
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.8
Now then seeing it hath been set forth what we ought to do, let us see what we are to receive. For he hath appointed a work, and promised a reward. What is the work? 'If ye shall continue in me.' A short work; short in description, great in execution. 'If ye shall continue.' What is, 'If ye shall continue'? 'If ye shall build on the Rock.' O how great a thing is this, Brethren, to build on the Rock, how great is it! 'The floods came. The winds blew, the rain descended, and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.'9
This then is the sight which ravishes every rational soul with desire for it, and of which the soul is the more ardent in its desire the purer it is; and it is the purer the more it rises again to the things of the spirit; and it rises the more to the things of the spirit, the more it dies to the material things of the flesh. But while we are away from the Lord and walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:6), we have to behold Christ's back, that is his flesh, by this same faith; standing that is upon the solid foundation of faith, which is represented by the rock, and gazing at his flesh from the security of the lookout on the rock, namely the Catholic church, of which it is said, And upon this rock I will build my church (Mt. 16:18). All the surer is our love for the face of Christ which we long to see, the more clearly we recognize in his back how much Christ first loved us.10
And yet, while the issue about the Church is one thing, the issue about persons
another, and they are quite distinct from each other, we aren't afraid of facing
the issue of persons either, whom they have accused, and been unable to convict.
We know they were cleared, we have tread the documentation of their being
cleared. Even if they hadn't been cleared, I would never set up a Church because
of them, and build one on sand, and pull down one built on rock; because on this
rock, he said, I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not
overcome it (Mt.
16:18). Now the rock was Christ (1
Cor. 10:4). Was it Paul that was crucified for
you? Hold on to these texts, love these texts, repeat them in a fraternal and
And this Church, symbolized in its generality, was personified in the Apostle Peter, on account of the primacy of his apostleship. For, as regards his proper personality, he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by still more abounding grace one, and yet also, the first apostle; but when it was said to him, 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,' he represented the universal Church, which in this world is shaken by divers temptations, that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests, and falleth not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from which Peter received his name. For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, 'On this rock will I build my Church,' because Peter had said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus. The Church, therefore, which is founded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins. For what the Church is essentially in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock (petra); and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the Rock, Peter as the Church.12
So what does all this symbolism mean? That receptacle signifies the Church; the
four lines it was hanging from are the four quarters of the earth, through which
the Catholic Church stretches, being spread out everywhere. So all those who
wish to go apart into a party, and to cut themselves off from the whole, do not
belong to the sacred reality signified by the four lines. But if they don't
belong to Peter's vision, neither do they do so to the keys which were given to
Peter. You see, God says his holy ones are to be gathered together at the end
from the four winds, because now the gospel faith is being spread abroad through
all those four cardinal points of the compass. So those animals are the nations.
All the Gentile nations, after all, were unclean in their errors and
superstitions and lusts before Christ came; but at his coming their sins were
forgiven them and they were made clean. Therefore now, after the forgiveness of
sins, why should they not be received into the body of Christ, which is the
Church of God, which Peter was standing for?
Its clear, you see, from many places in scripture that Peter can stand for, or represent, the Church; above all from that place where it says, To you will I hand over the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt. 16:19). Did Peter receive these keys, and Paul not receive them? Did Peter receive them, and John and James and the other apostles not receive them? Or are the keys not to be found in the Church, where sins are being forgiven every day? But because Peter symbolically stood for the Church, what was given to him alone was given to the whole Church. So Peter represented the Church; the Church is the body of Christ.13
The blessed Peter, the first of the apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who
was found worthy to hear, 'And I say to you, that you are Peter.' He himself,
you see, had just said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Christ
said to him, 'And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my Church' (Mt.
16:16, 18). Upon this rock I will build the
faith which you have just confessed. Upon what you have just said, 'You are the
Christ, the Son of the living God,' I will build my Church; because you are
Peter. Peter, Rocky, from rock, not rock from Rocky. Peter comes from 'petra',
rock, in exactly the same way as Christian comes from Christ. Do you want to
know what rock Peter is called after? Listen to Paul: 'I would not have you
ignorant, brothers,' the apostle of Christ says; 'I would not have you ignorant,
brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the
sea, and all were baptized in Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the
same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from
the rock that was following them, and the rock was Christ' (1
Cor 10:1-4). There you have where Rocky, Peter,
Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his, whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, 'To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 16:19). After all, it isn't just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter's acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church's universality and unity, when he was told, 'To you I am entrusting,' what has in fact been entrusted to all.
I mean, to show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: 'Receive the Holy Spirit;' and straightway, 'Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained' (Jn 20:22-23). This refers to the keys, about which it is said, 'whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven' (Mt 16:19). But that was said to Peter. To show you that Peter at that time stood for the universal Church, listen to what is said to him, what is said to all the faithful, the saints: 'If your brother sins against you, correct him between you and himself alone. If he does not listen to you, bring with you one or two; for it is written, By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be settled. If he does not even listen to them, refer him to the Church; if he does not even listen to her, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax collector. Amen amen I tell you, that whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Mt 16:18). It is the dove that binds, the dove that looses, the building built upon the rock that binds and looses.
Let those who are bound fear, those who are loosed fear. Let those who are loosed be afraid of being bound; those who are bound pray to be loosed. 'Each one is tied up in the thread of his own sins' (Prv 5:22). And apart from the Church, nothing is loosed. One four days dead is told, 'Lazarus, come forth in the open' (Jn 11:43), and he came forth from the tomb tied hand and foot with bandages. The Lord rouses him, so that the dead man may come forth from the tomb; this means he touches the heart, so that the confession of sin may come out in the open. But that's not enough, he's still bound. So after Lazarus had come out of the tomb, the Lord turned to his disciples, whom he had told, 'Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,' and said, 'Loose him, and let him go' (Jn 11:44). He roused him by himself, he loosed him through the disciples.
Furthermore, the Church's strength and courage is supremely presented to us in Peter; because he followed the Lord as he went to his passion; and also something of its weakness is to be observed there, since when he was questioned by a maid, he repudiated the Lord.14
We should each of us faithfully recall, too, an example offered us in that first
people. The apostle says, you see, All these things were our models
Cor. 10:6), when he was talking about such
things. I mean, what had he just said? For I would not have you ignorant,
brothers, that all our fathers were under the cloud; and all were baptized in
Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food, and all
drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that was
following them. Now the rock was Christ (1
Cor. 10:4). The one who said that these things
were our models, is one whom no believer has ever contradicted. And while he
mentioned many things, he only explained one of them, saying, Now the rock was
Christ. In explaining a single item, he left us the others to be inquired into;
but to save inquirers from going astray by departing from Christ, and to enable
them to seek surely, founded on the rock, The rock, he said, was Christ. He said
those things were our models, and they are all obscure. Who could unpack these
well wrapped models? Who could open them up, who would dare to shake them out?
In these densest possible thickets, so to say, and these thick shadows he has
hit a light: The rock, he says, was Christ.
I also want to say something about the doubts the servant of God, Moses, felt...In this case too, you see, he was representative of the saints of the Old Testament. Moses had his doubts about the water; when he struck the rock with his rod, so that water flowed out, he doubted...Moses doubted when the wood came into contact with the rock; the disciples doubted, when they saw the Lord crucified. Moses figuratively stood for them; he stood for that Peter with his threefold denial. Why did Peter doubt? Because the wood approached the rock. When the Lord himself was foretelling the kind of death he would die, that is his cross, Peter was horrified: Far be this from you, Lord; this shall not happen. You doubt, because you see the rod hanging over the rock. That's why the disciples then lost the hope they had placed in the Lord; it had somehow been cut off when they saw him crucified, when they mourned him slain. He came upon them after his resurrection talking to one another about this matter, in sad conversation. He kept their eyes from recognizing him, not to remove himself from believers, but to put them off while they were still doubters, and he joined in their conversation as a third party, and asked them what they were talking about. They were astonished that he should be the only person not to know what had happened-to the very one, in fact, who was inquiring about it. Are you the only stranger, they said, in Jerusalem? And they went over all that had happened to Jesus. And straightway they proceed to open up all the depth of their despair, and albeit unwittingly they show the doctor their wounds: But we, they say, were hoping that with him there would be redemption for Israel (Lk 24:13-21). There you are, doubt arose, because wood had come into contact with the rock. What Moses figuratively stood for was fulfilled.
Let's take a look at this text too: Climb the mountain and die (Dt 32:49-50). The bodily death of Moses stood for the death of his doubting, but on the mountain. What marvelous mysteries! When this had been definitely explained and understood, how much sweeter it is to the taste than manna! Doubting was born at the rock, died on the mountain. When Christ was humbled in his passion, he was like a rock lying on the ground before their eyes. It was natural to have doubts about him; that humility was not holding out hopes for anything very great. His very humiliation naturally made him into a stone of offense (Is 8:14; 1 Pt 2:8). But once glorified by his resurrection he was seen to be great, he is now a mountain. So now let that doubt, which was born at the rock, die on the mountain. Let the disciples recognize where their salvation lies, let them summon up their hope again. Notice how that doubting dies, notice how Moses dies on the mountain. Let him not enter the promised land; we don't want any doubting there; let it die. Let Christ now show us how it dies. Peter trembled and denied three times. The rock you see was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). He rose again, he became a mountain; he even gave Peter courage.15
By loving the sheep, show the love you have for the shepherd; because the very
sheep themselves are members of the shepherd. In order that the sheep might be
his members, he was prepared to be a sheep; that the sheep might be his members,
like a sheep that was led to the slaughter (Is
53:7); that the sheep might be his members, it
was said of him, Behold the lamb of God, behold the one who takes away the sins
of the world (Jn
So let us love him, let there be nothing dearer to us than he. So do you imagine that the Lord is not questioning us? Was Peter the only one who qualified to be questioned, and didn't we? When that reading is read, every single Christian is being questioned in his heart. So when you hear the Lord saying 'Peter, do you love me?' think of it as a mirror, and observe yourself there. I mean, what else was Peter doing but standing for the Church? So when the Lord was questioning Peter, he was questioning us, he was questioning the Church. I mean, to show you that Peter stood for the Church, call to mind that place in the gospel, 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not conquer her; to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 16:18-19). One man receives them; you see, he explained himself what the keys of the kingdom mean: 'What you all bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what you all loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Mt 18:18). If it was said to Peter alone, Peter alone did this; he passed away, and went away; so who binds, who looses? I make bold to say, we too have these keys. And what am I to say? That it is only we who bind, only we who loose? No, you also bind, you also loose. Anybody who's bound, you see, is barred from your society; and when he's barred from your society, he's bound by you; and when he's reconciled he's loosed by you, because you too plead with God for him.
We all love Christ, you see, we are his members; and when he entrusts the sheep to the shepherds, the whole number of shepherds is reduced to the body of one shepherd. Just to show you that the whole number of shepherds is reduced to the one body of the one shepherd, certainly Peter's a shepherd, undoubtedly a pastor; Paul's a shepherd, yes, clearly a pastor; John's a shepherd, James a shepherd, Andrew a shepherd, and the other apostles are shepherds. All holy bishops are shepherds, pastors, yes, clearly so. And how can this be true: And there will be one flock and one shepherd (Jn 10:16)? Then if there will be one flock and one shepherd is true, the innumerable number of shepherds or pastors must be reduced to the body of the one shepherd or pastor.16
This gospel that has just been read about Christ the Lord, and how he walked
over the surface of the sea, and about the apostle Peter, and how, by growing
afraid as he walked, he staggered, and by losing confidence began to submerge,
until by confessing he again emerged; this gospel is advising us to take the sea
as meaning the present age and this world, and the apostle Peter as representing
the one and only Church. Peter, you see, is first in the class of the apostles,
and readiest in expressing love of Christ, and is often the one who answers for
them all. Thus when the Lord Jesus Christ was inquiring who people said he was,
and the disciples told him the various opinions people held, and the Lord again
asked them, 'But you, who do you say that I am?'-it was Peter who answered, 'You
are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Mt
Then the Lord said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because it is not flesh and blood that revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.' Then he added, 'And I say to you.' As much as to say, Because you said to me, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,' I in turn say to you, 'You are Peter' (Mt 16:7-18). Previously, of course, he was called Simon; this name of Peter was bestowed on him by the Lord, and that with the symbolic intention of his representing the Church. Because Christ, you see, is the petra or rock; Peter, or Rocky, is the Christian people.. I mean, the basic name is 'rock.' Therefore Rocky is so called from rock, not the rock from Rocky; just as Christ is not so called from Christian, but Christian from Christ. So, 'You,' he says, 'are Peter, and on this rock,' which you have acknowledged, 'on this rock,' which you recognized when you said 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church;' that is, on myself, the Son of the living God, 'I will build my Church' (Mt 16:18). I will build you on me, not me on you.
There were people, you see, who wanted to build on human beings merely, and they would say, 'I'm Paul's man, I'm Apollo's, I'm Kephas'-that's Peter or Rocky...And others, who didn't want to be built on Rocky, but on the rock, said, 'But I'm Christ's.' When, however, the apostle Paul realized that he had been chosen and Christ had been ignored, he said, 'Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?' (1 Cor 1:12-13). Not in Paul's name, nor in Rocky's either, but in the name of Christ, so that Rocky might be built up on the rock, not the rock on Rocky.
So then, this self-same Peter, blessed by being surnamed Rocky from the rock, representing the person of the Church, holding chief place in the apostolic ranks, no sooner had he heard that he was blessed, no sooner had he heard that he was Rocky, no sooner had he heard that he was to be built on the rock, than on hearing also about the Lord's coming passion, which the Lord said was going to happen pretty quickly, he expressed his displeasure. He was afraid of losing by death the one he had confessed to be the fountain of life. He was shocked, and said, 'Far be it from you, Lord; this must not happen.' Be easy on yourself, God; I don't want you to die.
By observing this member of the Church ourselves, let us try and distinguish in our own lives what comes from God's ideas, and what from our own. Then we shan't stagger, then we shall be founded on the rock, then we shall be solid and steady against the winds, the storms of rain, the floods, namely the trials and temptations of this present age. However, notice that man Peter, who was the symbolic representative of us all; now he's trusting, now he's tottering; one moment he's acknowledging Christ to be immortal, the next he's afraid of his dying. Its because the Church of Christ in the same sort of way has strong members, and also has weak members. It can't do without its strong members, nor without its weak ones. That's why the apostle Paul says, 'But we who are strong should bear the burdens of the weak' (Rom 15:1). Now Peter, in saying 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Mt 16:15), represents the strong. But in his being filled with alarm, and his staggering, and not wanting Christ to suffer because he was afraid of death and didn't recognize life, he represents the weak members of the Church. So in that one apostle, that is, in Peter, first and chief in the ranks of the apostles, in whom the Church was symbolized, each kind of member had to be symbolized too, that is to say, the strong and the weak; because without the one or the other there is no Church.17
Peter had already said to him, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' He had already heard, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not conquer her' (Mt 16:16-18). Such faith was drowned when the Lord was crucified. Peter, you see, only believed he was the Son of God up to the time he saw him hanging on the tree, the time he saw him fixed there with nails, the time he saw him dead, the time he saw him buried. Then he lost what he held. Where's the rock? Where's the immovable solidity of the rock? Christ himself was the rock, while Peter, Rocky, was only named from the rock. That's why the rock rose again, to make Peter solid and strong; because Peter would have perished, if the rock hadn't lived.18
When Christ said, Who do you say that I am? Peter answered, You are the Christ,
the Son of the living God. And the Lord said to him: Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona,
because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, as it has to those who call
me a prophet, but my Father, who is in heaven; and I say to you, you are Peter
16:15-18). You have said to me, let me say to
you; you have made your confession of faith, now hear my blessing.
You see, the Lord had said about himself what was less important, and Peter had told him what was more important. In the Lord Jesus Christ, after all, what was less important was his being the Son of man; what was more important was his being the Son of God. He mentioned the less important thing, because he humbled himself; the one whom he exalted mentioned the more important one. Upon this rock, said the Lord, I will build my Church. Upon this confession, upon this that you said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,' I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer her (Mt. 16:18).19
For not without cause among all the Apostles doth Peter sustain the person of this Church Catholic; for unto this Church were the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven given, when they were given unto Peter: and when it is said unto him, it is said unto all, Lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep. Therefore the Church Catholic ought willingly to pardon her sons, upon their amendment, and confirmation in godliness; when we see that Peter himself, bearing her person, both when he had tottered on the sea, and when with carnal feeling he had sought to call back the Lord from suffering, and when he had cut off the ear of the servant with the sword, and when he had thrice denied the Lord Himself, and when afterwards he had fallen into superstitious dissembling, had pardon granted unto him, and after amendment and strengthening attained at last unto the glory of the Lord's suffering.20
We know what rock is; and yet a hard and obstinate person is called a rock, and a solid, immovable person is called rock. In praise you take the rock's solidity, in blame you take its hardness. We know the solidity of the rock, and we accept Christ as the rock: Now the rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).21
One wicked man represents the whole body of the wicked; in the same way as Peter, the whole body of the good, yea, the body of the Church, but in respect to the good. For if in Peter's case there were no sacramental symbol of the Church, the Lord would not have said to him, 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.' If this was said only to Peter, it gives no ground of action to the Church. But if such is the case also in the Church, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven-for when the Church excommunicates, the excommunicated person is bound in heaven; when one is reconciled by the Church, the person so reconciled is loosed in heaven-if such, then, is the case in the Church, Peter, in receiving the keys, represented the holy Church.22
Coming now to what the Lord goes on to say to Moses: 'You cannot see my face and
live, for a man shall not see my face and live. And the Lord said Behold, there
is a place beside me, and you shall stand upon the rock the moment my majesty
passes, and I will set you at a look-out in the rock, and I will cover you with
my hand until I have passed, and I will take away my hand, and then you shall
see my back; for my face shall not appear to you' (Ex 33:20). This is usually
understood, not inappropriately, to prefigure the person of our Lord Jesus
Christ, taking his 'back' to mean his flesh, in which he was born of the virgin,
died and rose again...This then is the sight which ravishes every rational soul
with desire for it, and of which the soul is more ardent in its desire the purer
it is; and it is the purer the more it rises again to the things of the spirit;
and it rises more to the things of the spirit, the more it dies to the material
things of the flesh. But while 'we are away from the Lord and walking by faith
and not by sight' (2 Cor 5:6), we have to behold Christ's back, that is, his
flesh, by this same faith; standing that is upon the solid foundation of faith,
which is represented by the rock, and gazing at his flesh from the security of
the lookout on the rock, namely the Catholic Church, of which it is said, 'And
upon this rock I will build my Church' (Mt
16:18). All the surer is our love for the face
of Christ which we long to see, the more clearly we recognize in his back how
much Christ first loved us.
But as regards this flesh of his, it is faith in his resurrection that saves and justifies. 'If you believe in your hearts,' it says, 'that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' (Rom 10:9); and again, 'Who delivered himself up for our transgressions and rose again for our justification' (Rom 4:25). So it is the resurrection of the Lord's body that gives value to our faith.
Even his enemies believe that the body died on the cross of pain, but they do not believe that it rose again. We however believe it absolutely, observing it so to say from the firmness of the rock, from where 'we await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies,' in the certainty of hope (Rom 8:23)...'And you shall stand,' it says, 'upon the rock the moment my majesty passes' (Ex 33:21). And in very truth, the moment the majesty of the Lord passed, in the glory of the Lord's resurrection and ascension to the Father, we were firmly established upon the rock. It was then that Peter himself was firmly established, so that he could boldly preach Christ whom he had timorously thrice denied before he was firmly established.23
Some one, perhaps, may inquire what is signified by the division that was made of His garments into so many parts, and of the casting of lots for the coat. The raiment of the Lord Jesus Christ parted into four, symbolized His quadripartite Church, as spread abroad over the whole world, which consists of four quarters...But the coat, on which lots were cast, signifies the unity of all the parts, which is contained in the bond of charity...And it was without seam, that its sewing might never be separated; and came into the possession of one man, because He gathereth all into one. Just as in the case of the apostles, who formed the exact number of twelve, in other words, were divisible into four parts of three each, when the question was put to all of them, Peter was the only one that answered, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;' and to whom it was said, 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,' as if he alone received the power of binding and loosing: seeing, then, that one spake in behalf of all, and received the latter along with all, as if personifying the unity itself; therefore one stands for all, because there is unity in all.24
The Creed of most holy martyrdom, which you received as a group and which you have recited today as individuals, contains the truths upon which the faith of Mother Church is solidly established as on a firm foundation, which is Christ Jesus the Lord. 'For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus' (1 Cor. 3:11).25
So whoever builds him up like that is not building him on rock, but placing him on sand. 'Now the rock was Christ' (1 Cor 10:4).26
Well, when they had rushed for the stones, hard men for hard stones, they started hurling at him things just like themselves. He was being stoned with rocks, as he was dying for the Rock. Its what the apostle says: But the rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).27
Peter too would walk. He as Head, Peter as Body: because, 'Upon this rock,' He saith, ' I will build My Church.' He was bidden to walk, and he was walking by the Grace of Him bidding, not by his own strength.28
Thus Christ is also called the cornerstone who has made both one (Eph 2:20, 14). A corner joins two walls coming from different directions. What could be more different than circumcised and uncircumcised, meaning one wall from Judea and another wall from the Gentiles? But they are joined together by the cornerstone. For the stone which the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner (Ps 118:22).29
None of us lacks Christ. He is complete in all of us, and still there is more of his body waiting for him. Those disciples believed, through them many inhabitants of Jerusalem came to believe, Judea came to believe, Samaria came to believe. Let the members join the body, the building attach itself to the foundation. For no other foundation can anyone lay, says the apostle, except what has been laid, which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11).30
That Jerusalem of ours, though, still in exile, is being built in heaven. That's
why Christ, its foundation, preceded it into heaven. That, you see, is where our
foundation is, and the head of the Church, because a foundation too is also
called a head; and indeed that is what it is. Because the head of a building too
is its foundation; its head isn't where it is finished, but where it starts
growing upward from. The tops of earthly buildings are raised up high; yet they
set their head firmly in the solid ground. In the same sort of way the head of
the Church has gone ahead into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the
Father. Just as men go about their work, when for laying foundations they bring
along suitable material to make a solid base, to ensure the security of the mass
that is going to be placed on top of it in construction of the edifice to be; so
in the same sort of way, by all those things that took place in Christ, being
born, growing up, being arrested, enduring abuse, being scourged, crucified,
killed, dying, being buried, it was like material being brought along for the
So now that our foundation has been laid in the heights, let us get ourselves built on it. Listen to the apostle: No other foundation, he says, can anyone lay, besides the one which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor 3:11). But what comes next? But let each of you see what you build on top of the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, stubble (1 Cor: 10,12). Christ is indeed in heaven, but also in the hearts of believers. If Christ has the first place there, the foundation is rightly laid. So if you are building on it, you may build without a qualm, if you build, to match the worth of the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones. If however, by building wood, grass, stubble, you fail to match the worth of the foundation, at least stick to the foundation, and because of the dry and fragile things you have constructed on it, prepare yourself for the fire. But if the foundation is there, that is if Christ has obtained the first place in your heart, while the things of this world are loved in such a way that they are not put before Christ, but the Lord Christ is put before them, so that he is the foundation, that is holding the first place in your heart, then you will suffer loss, he says, but you yourself shall be saved, in such a way, though, as is by fire (1 Cor 3:15).31
If in Him tempted we have been, in Him we overcome the devil...'On the Rock Thou hast exalted me.' Now therefore here we perceive who is crying from the ends of the earth. Let us call to mind the Gospel: 'Upon this Rock I will build My Church.' Therefore She crieth from the ends of the earth, whom He hath willed to build upon a Rock. But in order that the Church might be builded upon the Rock, who was made the Rock? Hear Paul saying: 'But the Rock was Christ.' On Him therefore builded we have been. For this reason that Rock whereon we have been builded, first hath been smitten with winds, flood, rain, when Christ of the devil was being tempted. Behold on what firmness He hath willed to stablish thee. With reason our voice is not in vain, but is hearkened unto: for on great hope we have been set: 'On the Rock Thou hast exalted me.'32
For as some things are said which seem peculiarly to apply to the Apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning, unless when referred to the Church, whom he is acknowledged to have figuratively represented, on account of the primacy which he bore among the Disciples; as it is written, 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,' and other passages of like purport: so Judas doth represent those Jews who were enemies of Christ...33
One wicked man represents the whole body of the wicked; in the same way as Peter, the whole body of the good, yea, the body of the Church, but in respect to the good. For if in Peter's case there were no sacramental symbol of the Church, the Lord would not have said to him, 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.' If this was said only to Peter, it gives no ground of action to the Church. But if such is the case also in the Church, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven, for when the Church excommunicates, the excommunicated person is bound in heaven; when one is reconciled by the Church, the person so reconciled is loosed in heaven: if, such, then is the case in the Church, Peter, in receiving the keys, represented the good in the Church, and in Judas' person were represented the bad in the Church...34
So my life will depend on you, and my salvation be bound up with you! Have I forgotten my foundation all that much? Wasn't Christ the rock? The one who builds on the rock, isn't he the one whom neither wind nor rain nor rivers can overthrow? So come with me, if you will, onto the rock, and don't aim at replacing the rock for me.35
How great a house is this! But when does it sing the new song? When it is in building. When is it dedicated? At the end of the world. Its foundation has already been dedicated, because He hath ascended into heaven, and dieth no more. When we too shall have risen to die no more, then shall we be dedicated.36
The Church of the Jews comes from the circumcision, the Church of the Gentiles comes from the uncircumcision. Coming from different directions, they are joined together in the Lord. That is why the Lord is called the cornerstone. Thus the psalm says: The stone which the builders rejected, this very one has become the head of the corner (Ps 118:22). And the apostle says: Christ Jesus being himself the cornerstone (Eph 2:20).37
So was there no point in the Lord saying, What you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt 18:18; 16:19)? So were the keys given to the Church of God for nothing?38
Listen to the Lord, when He says, 'I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not;' that we may never think of our faith as so lying in our free will that it has no need of the divine assistance.39
Faith pours out prayer, and the pouring out of prayer obtains the strengthening of faith. Faith, I say, pours out prayer, the pouring out of prayer obtains strengthening even for faith itself. For that faith might not fail in temptations, therefore did the Lord say, 'Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.' What is to 'enter into temptation,' but to depart from faith? For so far temptation advances as faith gives way: and so far temptation gives way, as faith advances. For that you may know, Beloved, more plainly, that the Lord said, 'Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation,' as touching faith lest it should fail and perish; He said in the same place of the Gospel, 'This night hath Satan desired to sift you as wheat, and I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not.'40
We have heard the Lord Jesus setting before us the whole office and duty of the
good shepherd or pastor. In doing so, he was giving us clearly to understand
that there are good shepherds. And yet, to prevent us drawing the wrong
conclusions from the existence of many shepherds or pastors, I, he said, am the
good shepherd. And then he went on to show what makes a good shepherd: The good
shepherd, he says, lays down his life for the sheep. But the hired hand, and the
one who is not the shepherd, sees the wolf coming, and runs away, because he
does not care about the sheep; he is only a hired hand (Jn
10:11-13). So Christ is the good shepherd. What
about Peter? Isn't he a good shepherd? Didn't he too lay down his life for the
sheep? What about Paul? What about the other apostles? What about the blessed
martyr bishops who came after their times? What indeed about this saint of ours,
Cyprian? Weren't they all good shepherds, and not hired hands, of whom it says,
Amen I tell you, they have received their reward. (Mt
6:2-5) So all these were good shepherds...
Because you see, even among the heretics, who have endured a certain amount of harassment because of their iniquities and errors, there are those who boast of being martyrs, in order to steal all the more easily under this cloak of respectability; because in fact they are wolves. But if you really want to know in what class to count them, listen to that good shepherd the apostle Paul, saying that not all who hand over their bodies to the flames in martyrdom are to be considered as having shed their blood forthe sheep, but rather against the sheep...
But how can you have even the tiniest bit of charity, if even when you have been proved wrong, you don't love unity? When the Lord was entrusting this unity to good shepherds, he didn't wish to talk about many shepherds. As I said, it's not that Peter was not a good shepherd, or Paul, or the rest of the apostles, or the holy bishops who came after them, or blessed Cyprian. All these were good shepherds; and yet he did not draw the attention of these good shepherds to good shepherds, but to the good shepherd. I, he said, am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11)...What was Peter? Was he either not a shepherd, not a pastor, or else a bad one? Let's see if he's not a shepherd. Do you love me? You said it to him, Lord. Do you love me? And he answered, I do. And you then said to him, Feed my sheep. You, Lord, you yourself, by your very questioning of him, by the formal decree of your own lips, made a lover a pastor.
So he is a pastor, a shepherd, to whom you entrusted your sheep, with the task of feeding them. You yourself appointed him, he's a shepherd. Let's see now if he's a good one. We find out in this very exchange of question and answer. You inquired whether he loved you, he answered, I do. You saw into his heart, that he answered truthfully. So isn't he good, seeing that he loves so great a good? ...So he was both a shepherd and a good shepherd; nothing to compare, of course, with the authority and goodness of the shepherd of shepherds, the pastor of pastors; but all the same he too was both a pastor and a good one, and the others like him were good pastors.
So why is it that you draw the attention of good shepherds to the idea of one shepherd? For what other reason could it be, but that in the one shepherd you are teaching the lesson of unity? And the Lord explains the matter more clearly through my ministry, as he reminds your graces from the gospel and says, "Listen to what I have drawn attention to: I am the good shepherd, I said; because all the others, all the good shepherds are my members, parts of me; one head, one body, one Christ. So both the shepherd of the shepherds, and the shepherds of the shepherd, and the sheep with the shepherds under the shepherd, are one. All this is only what the apostle says: Just as the body is one and has many parts, but all the parts of the body, though they are many, form one body, so too is Christ (1 Cor 12:12). If, then, so too is Christ, it was quite right for Christ, who contains all the good shepherds in himself, to draw attention to one by saying, I am the good shepherd. I am, I am one person, with me all in the unity are one. Anyone who feeds the sheep outside me feeds them against me. Anyone who does not gather with me scatters.41
But first the Lord asks what He knew, and that not once, but a second and third time, whether Peter loved Him; and just as often he has the same answer, that He is loved, while just as often He gives Peter the same charge to feed His sheep. To the threefold denial there is now appended a threefold confession, that his tongue may not yield a feebler service to love than to fear, and imminent death may not appear to have elicited more from the lips than present life. Let it be the office of love to feed the Lord's flock, if it was the signal of fear to deny the Shepherd. Those who have this purpose in feeding the flock of Christ, that they may have them as their own, and not as Christ's, are convicted of loving themselves, and not Christ, from the desire either of boasting, or wielding power, or acquiring gain, and not from the love of obeying, serving and pleasing God. Against such, therefore, there stands as a wakeful sentinel this thrice inculcated utterance of Christ, of whom the apostle complains that they seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's. For what else mean the words, 'Lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep,' than if it were said, If thou lovest me, think not of feeding thyself, but feed my sheep as mine, and not as thine own; seek my glory in them, and not thine own; my dominion, and not thine; my gain, and not thine; lest thou be found in the fellowship of those who belong to the perilous times, lovers of their own selves, and all else that is joined on to this beginning of evils?...With great propriety, therefore, is Peter addressed, 'Lovest thou Me:' and the command applied to him, 'Feed my lambs,' and this a second and third time...Let us, then, love not ourselves, but Him; and in feeding His sheep, let us be seeking the things which are His, not the things which are our own.42
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. 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.43
So when the Lord was speaking just now, he said he was a shepherd; he also said he was a gate. You've got each thing there; both I am the gate and I am the shepherd (Jn 10:9,11). He's the gate in the head, the shepherd in the body. You see, he says to Peter, whom he singles out to represent the Church, Peter, do you love me? He answers, Lord, I do. And then a third time, Peter, do you love me? Peter was upset that he asked him a third time (Jn 21:15-17); as though the one could see his conscience when he was going to deny him could not see his faith when he wanted to confess him.44
Every time, though, every time, that is with each of his three questions, as
Peter answers that he loves him, the Lord Jesus entrusts him with his lambs, and
says, Feed my lambs, feed my sheep (Jn
21:15-17). What are you going to give me, since
you love me? Show your love in my sheep. What are you bestowing on me by loving
me, seeing that it was I who bestowed on you the ability to love me? But you do
have the means of showing your love for me, you have the means of exercising it:
Feed my sheep.
To what extent, though, the lambs of the Lord were to be fed, with what love the sheep bought at such a price were to be fed, he indicated in what followed. I mean, after Peter, completing the just requirement of his threefold answer, had professed himself to be a lover of the Lord, and had his sheep entrusted to him, he heard about his own future martyrdom. Here the Lord indicated that his sheep are to be loved by those to whom he entrusts them, in such a way that they are ready to die for them. That's what this same John writes in his letter: Just as Christ laid down his life for us, in the same way we too ought to lay down ours for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16).45
Here I find all the good shepherds in the one shepherd. The good shepherds are not lacking after all, but they are in the one. Those who have broken away are many. Here one is being proclaimed because unity is being commended to us. It isn't really because the Lord couldn't find shepherds to commend his sheep to that here shepherds are not mentioned and the shepherd is. In that other text he found Peter to commend them to. Yes indeed, and in Peter himself he commended unity to us. There were several apostles, and only one was told, Feed my sheep (Jn 21:17). It is unthinkable that good shepherds should be lacking now; far be it from us that they should be lacking, far be it from his mercy not to produce them and establish them. Of course, if there are good sheep, there are also good shepherds, because good shepherds are made out of good sheep. But all the good shepherds are in the one, they are one. They feed the sheep, Christ feeds them...And with Peter too, when he was commending his sheep to him as one man to another, he wished to make him one with himself, and to commend his sheep to him in such a way that he himself would be the head and Peter would represent the body, that is to say the Church, and like husband and wife they would be two in one flesh. Well, what did he say to him first, in order to be able to commend his sheep to him, without simply commending them to him as one man to another? Peter, do you love me? And he answered, I do. And again, Do you love me? And he answered, I do. And a third time, Do you love me? And he answered, I do (Jn 21:15-17). He makes sure of love in order to consolidate unity.46
Quite rightly too did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It's not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord's sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles.47
So the Lord entrusted his sheep to us bishops, because he entrusted them to Peter; if, that is, we are worthy with any part of us, even with the tips of our toes, to tread the dust of Peter's footsteps, the Lord entrusted his sheep to us. You are his sheep, we are sheep along with you, because we are Christians. I have already said, we are fed and we feed.48
But when he declared his love once, and again, and a third time, the Lord entrusted him with his sheep. Do you love me? He said. Lord, you know that I love you. Feed my lambs. This once, and again, and a third time, as though the only way Peter could show his love for Christ would be by being a faithful shepherd and pastor under the prince of all pastors...Watch out, though, brothers and sisters, for men who are bad servants, who have carved out private herds for themselves out of the Lord's flock, and divided up the estate they had not bought. Some unfaithful servants have sprung up, you see, and divided the flock of Christ, and by their thefts, as it were, from his flock have put together private herds for themselves, and you hear them saying, 'These are my sheep'...Far be it from us to call you our sheep; that's no Catholic way of speaking, it isn't brotherly, it isn't Peter's because it is against the Rock. You are sheep, but those of the one who has bought both us and you. We have one and the same Lord; he is the real shepherd, not just hired for the job. 49
What now on this occasion? The Lord questions him, as you heard when the gospel was read, and says to him, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? He answered and said, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. And again the Lord asked this question, and a third time he asked this question. And every time in reply he affirmed his love, he entrusted him with the care of his flock. Every time, you see, that Peter said I love you, the Lord Jesus said to him, Feed my lambs, feed my sheep (Jn 21:15-17). The one man Peter represents the unity of all the shepherds or pastors of the Church-but of the good ones, who know how to feed Christ's flock for Christ, not for themselves.50
So, brothers and sisters, receive it in a spirit of obedience when you hear that you are Christ's sheep; because we bishops too are filled with fear and trembling when we hear, Feed my sheep.51
1 ^ John Rotelle, O.S.A., Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City
Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/6, Sermon 229P.1, p. 327.
2 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 270.2, p. 289.
3 ^ The Fathers of the Church (Washington D.C., Catholic University, 1968), Saint Augustine, The Retractations Chapter 20.1.
4 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermon 26.1-4, pp. 340-341.
5 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo: Christian Literature, 1887), Volume IV, St. Augustin, Against the Donatists, Book II, Chap. 109,
6 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/5, Sermon 183.14, p. 343.
7 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1994), Sermons, Volume III/9, Sermon 337.1, p. 271.
8 ^ A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845), Volume 20, Sermon 97.3, p. 686, (Sermon 147, Benedictine Edition).
9 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermons on New-Testament Lessons,
Sermon LXXXIV.2, p. 510.
10 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1991), Volume I/5, The Trinity, Book II.28, p. 119.
11 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1995), Sermons, Volume III/10, Sermon 358.5, p. 193.
12 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, On the Gospel of John, Tractate 124.5.
13 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1992), Sermons, III/5, Sermon 149.6-7, p. 21.
14 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City, 1994), Sermons, III/8 (273-305A), On the Saints, Sermon 295.1-3, pp.
15 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City, 1995), Sermons, Volume III/10, Sermon 352.3-5, pp. 138-143.
16 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/6, Sermon 229N.1-3, pp. 320-321.
17 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New City: Brooklyn, 1991), Sermons, Volume III/3, Sermon 76.1-4, pp. 311-313.
18 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1993) Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 244.1, pp. 95-96.
19 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1993) Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 236A.3, p. 48.
20 ^ A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1847), Seventeen Short Treatises of S. Augustine, De Agone Christiano
(The Christian Conflict) 32, p. 184.
21 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City, 1990), Sermons, Volume III/1, Sermon 4.22, p. 197.
22 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustine, On The Gospel of St. John, Tractate 50.12,
23 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City, 1991), Part I - Books, Volume V, The Trinity, Book II.6.28-30, pp. 117-119.
24 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, Homilies on the Gospel of St. John,
Tractate 118.4, p. 431.
25 ^ The Fathers of the Church (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1959), Volume 38, Saint Augustine, Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Sermon 215.1,
26 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City, 1990), Sermons, Volume III/2, Sermon 46.10, p. 269.
27 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City, 1994), Sermons, Volume III/9, Sermon 317.5, p. 144.
28 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VIII, Saint Augustin, Exposition on the Book of Psalms,
Psalm LV.5, p. 211.
29 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City, 1991), Sermons, Volume III/3, Sermon 88.10, p. 426.
30 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 116.6, p. 206.
31 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/10, Sermon 362.8-9, p. 246.
32 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VIII, Saint Augustin, Exposition on the Book of Psalms,
Psalm LXI.3, p. 249.
33 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VIII, Saint Augustin, Exposition on the Book of Psalms,
Psalm CIX.1, p. 536.
34 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, Homilies on the Gospel of John,
Tractate 50.12, p. 282.
35 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 129.8, p. 307.
36 ^ A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845), Volume 16, Sermon 66.7, p. 485, (Sermon 116, Benedictine Edition).
37 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1990), Sermons, Volume III/1, Sermon 4.18, p. 195.
38 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1995), Sermons, Volume III/10, Sermon 392.3, p. 422.
39 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John,
Tractate 53.8, p. 294.
40 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermon LXV. 1, p. 454.
41 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 138.2-5, pp. 385-387.
42 ^ Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, Homilies on the Gospel of John,
Tractate 123.5, pp. 445-446.
43 ^ A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1845), Volume 20, Sermon 97.2, p. 685, (Sermon 147, Benedictine Edition).
44 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 137.3, p. 373.
45 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 253.2, pp. 148-149.
46 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1990), Sermons, Volume III/2, Sermon 46.30, pp. 282-283.
47 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1994), Sermons, Volume III/8, Sermon 295.4, p. 199.
48 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1994), Sermons, Volume III/8, Sermon 296.13, p. 211.
49 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 147A.1-2, pp. 451-452.
50 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 147.2, p. 448.
51 ^ John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 146.1, p. 445.