THE PRIESTHOOD: THE GREATEST
EVIDENCE OF LOVE FOR CHRIST
"Peter, do you love
Me?" If you love me, "Tend My sheep." For Christ,
tending His sheep is of high value and an unspeakable reward is reserved for
him who labors for the sheep. Even among us, we appreciate people who take
care of our family members; how much more to care for the sheep whom Christ
has purchased with His blood?
"Yes, Lord." Don't
just say yes. Prove it. "Tend My sheep." At that time, Christ was
showing His great love for His Church; and He wanted Peter to have much zeal
to do the same.
"Who is the wise and
faithful servant. . ." Of course, Christ knew who was wise and
faithful; and He also knew that Peter loved Him. He asked to show forth the
rarity of such a character and the greatness of the work. ". . .He will
appoint him ruler over all His goods."
"Peter, do you love Me
MORE THAN THESE?" If so, "Tend My sheep." Christ did not say
fast, sleep on the ground, have long vigils, defend the wrong, take care of
orphans, take care of widows. . though all of these are good. But these are
the good anybody can do. But to "Tend My sheep", all women and men
must withdraw. Only those who surpass all others in excellence must approach
"Do you love Me more than these."
To tend Christ's sheep is more
difficult than being a shepherd who merely contends with wolves and robbers;
they contend against principalities, powers and rulers of darkness. He cares
not for sheep but for souls. And, while it is easy to detect the illness of
the sheep and cure it, it is not the same with the illness of the human
It is difficult to discern
man's spiritual diseases and, even if we do, it is difficult to convince the
patient to take the remedies because the reception of the treatment depends
on the will of the patient, not on him who applies the remedy.
For Christians are not
permitted forcibly to correct the failings of those who sin, unlike judges
who can force criminals against their will . In our case, the wrongdoer must
be made better, not by force, but by persuasion.
God rewards those who abstain
from evil by their own choice, not out of necessity. Consequently, much
skill is required that our patients may be induced to submit willingly to
the treatment of the physicians, and not only that, but that they may be
grateful also for the cure.
For if anyone, when he is
bound, becomes restless, his mischief becomes worse. Showing contempt to
advise given him, will make him worse. It is impossible to cure anyone
spiritually against his will.
St. John Chrysostom: Treatise
Concerning the Christian Priesthood