Patristic Lectionary – 20 November – St. Edmund Martyr; Saturday, Twenty-Fourth Week in Trinitytide
[Consonant with both Anglicanism’s and monasticism’s love of patristic theology-spirituality, this is a series of occasional selections from a two-year lectionary for the Divine Office that draws mostly from patristic writings. The lectionary was initially edited by Stephen Mark Holmes (University of Edinburgh School of Divinity) and subsequently re-edited and formatted by Michele Freyhauf (Durham University). Click here for the link to the lectionary. R. M. Healey’s edition is also used if there are lacunae in the Durham edition. Click here for the link to Healey’s formatting of the lectionary.]
[Image: Mosaic of the Good Shepherd, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy.]
Ezekiel 34:1-6, 11-16, 23-31
Israel is the Lord’s Flock
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the fountains, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and upon the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on fat pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice.
“And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.
“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them; they shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will provide for them prosperous plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord GOD. And you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord GOD.”
St. Augustine of Hippo
Sermon 46, 1-2
This is not the first time, my dear people, you have learned that all our hope is in Christ, and that all real and saving glory for us is in him. For you are part of his flock, the guide and shepherd of Israel. But as there are shepherds who desire to be called shepherds, but refuse to fulfil the office of shepherds, let us recall what is said to them through the Prophet Ezekiel. For your part, listen with attention; I must listen with fear and trembling.
The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy even to the shepherds.’ We have just heard this lesson as it was being read; hence I have decided to speak to you, good people. He himself will help me to speak the truth, if I do not speak just what is my own. For if I speak my own opinions, I shall be a shepherd feeding myself, not my sheep; but if what I say is his, it is he who feeds you, no matter who is speaking. Thus says the Lord God, Ho, shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? That is, shepherds feed not themselves but their sheep. This is the first reason why those shepherds are accused, that they feed themselves, not the sheep. Who are those who feed themselves? Those of whom the Apostle says: All seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.
The Lord, as he thought fit, and not according to my own merits, appointed me to this position, for which the account to be rendered is fraught with danger; and I exhibit two clearly distinct features: one, that I am a Christian; two, that I am appointed overseer of others. The fact that I am a Christian is for my benefit; that I am appointed an overseer is for yours. My own good is to be considered in my being a Christian; in my being an overseer, only yours.
There are many who, as Christians and not leaders, attain to God, travelling maybe an easier road, and the more speedily, perhaps, the lighter the load they carry. But I, besides being a Christian, and for this having to render an account of my life, am a leader also, and for this shall render to God an account of my ministry.