St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
|I shall feed my sheep on good pasture|
I shall gather them together from foreign nations and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel... As the mountains of Israel, he has set up the authors of the holy Scriptures. Feed on these and you will feed in safety. Whatever you hear from them will do you good; whatever you hear from elsewhere, spit it out. Listen to the voice of your shepherd lest you lose your way and wander into the mist. Gather together on the mountains of holy Scripture. There you will find the delight of your heart: nothing poisonous, nothing strange – the richest of pastures. Simply come in good health, and feed in good health on the mountains of Israel.
...In the ravines and in every inhabited place in the land. From these mountains of Scripture flow the streams of the gospel preaching, whose sound has gone forth into all the earth so that every inhabited place of the earth has become a rich and fertile pasture for the sheep.
I shall feed them in good pasturage; the high mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There will they rest. That is, where they will say, “It is good here,” where they will say, “It is true, it is clear, we are not deceived.” They will take their rest in the glory of God as in their own shelters. They will sleep and take their rest in the midst of delight.
They will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I have already spoken of the mountains of Israel, the good mountains, the mountains to which we lift up our eyes so that help will come to us from them. But remember, our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. So to prevent us putting our hope in the mountains, as soon as he had said I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel he added at once I shall feed my sheep. Yes, lift your eyes up to the mountains from which your help will come; but wait for him to say I shall feed. For your help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
And finally he says I shall feed them with judgement. Note that it is he alone who feeds them with judgement. For what man can judge another man? Wherever you look, you see rash judgements. Someone we have despaired of suddenly turns round and becomes the best of people. Someone of whom we have had high expectations suddenly fails and sinks into uselessness. There is no certainty in our foreboding, there is no certainty in our love.
Take any man. What is he today? He hardly knows himself. He has some slight idea, perhaps, of what he is today, but as for tomorrow – nothing. So the Lord feeds us all with judgement, distributing what is appropriate to each of us: this to one person, that to others, to each what they ought to have, one thing to one and another to another. For he knows what he is doing. He feeds us with judgement, us whom he redeemed after he had himself been judged. So he feeds us all with judgement.