Homily 56 on the Gospel of John
And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
1. And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. Being full of love for man, and caring for our salvation, and desiring to stop the mouths of the foolish, He omits nothing of His own part, though there be none to give heed. And the Prophet knowing this says, That You might be justified when You speak, and be clear when You are judged. Psalm 51:4 Wherefore here, when they would not receive His sublime sayings, but said that He had a devil, and attempted to kill Him, He went forth from the Temple, and healed the blind, mitigating their rage by His absence, and by working the miracle softening their hardness and cruelty, and establishing His assertions. And He works a miracle which was no common one, but one which took place then for the first time. Since the world began, says he who was healed, was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. John 9:32 Some have, perhaps, opened the eyes of the blind, but of one born blind never. And that on going out of the Temple, He proceeded intentionally to the work, is clear from this; it was He who saw the blind man, not the blind man who came to Him; and so earnestly did He look upon him, that even His disciples perceived it. From this, at least, they came to question Him; for when they saw Him earnestly regarding the man, they asked Him, saying, Who did sin, this man, or his parents? A mistaken question, for how could he sin before he was born? And how, if his parents had sinned, would he have been punished? Whence then came they to put this question? Before, when He healed the paralytic, He said, Behold, you are made whole, sin no more. John 5:14 They therefore, having understood that he was palsied on account of sin, said, Well, that other was palsied because of his sins; but concerning this man, what wouldest Thou say? Has he sinned? It is not possible to say so, for he is blind from his birth. Have his parents sinned? Neither can one say this, for the child suffers not punishment for the father. As therefore when we see a child evil entreated, we exclaim, What can one say of this? What has the child done? not as asking a question, but as being perplexed, so the disciples spoke here, not so much asking for information, as being in perplexity. What then says Christ?
Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents.
This He says not as acquitting them of sins, for He says not simply, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but adds, that he should have been born blind — but that the Son of God should be glorified in him. For both this man has sinned and his parents, but his blindness proceeds not from that. And this He said, not signifying that though this man indeed was not in such case, yet that others had been made blind from such a cause, the sins of their parents, since it cannot be that when one sins another should be punished. For if we allow this, we must also allow that he sinned before his birth. As therefore when He declared, neither has this man sinned, He said not that it is possible to sin from one’s very birth, and be punished for it; so when He said, nor his parents, He said not that one may be punished for his parents’ sake. This supposition He re moves by the mouth of Ezekiel; As I live says the Lord, this proverb shall not be, that is used, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Ezekiel 18:3 And Moses says, The father shall not die for the child, neither shall the child die for the father. Deuteronomy 24:16 And of a certain king Scripture says, that for this very reason he did not this thing, observing the law of Moses. But if any one argue, How then is it said, ‘Who visits the sins of the parents upon the children unto the third and fourth generation’? Deuteronomy 5:9; we should make this answer, that the assertion is not universal, but that it is spoken with reference to certain who came out of Egypt. And its meaning is of this kind; Since these who have come out of Egypt, after signs and wonders, have become worse than their forefathers who saw none of these things, they shall suffer, It says, the same that those others suffered, since they have dared the same crimes. And that it was spoken of those men, any one who will give attention to the passage will more certainly know. Wherefore then was he born blind?
That the glory of God should be made manifest, He says.
Lo, here again is another difficulty, if without this man’s punishment, it was not possible that the glory of God should be shown. Certainly it is not said that it was impossible, for it was possible, but, that it might be manifested even in this man. What, says some one, did he suffer wrong for the glory of God? What wrong, tell me? For what if God had never willed to produce him at all? But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness: since he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered sight. As then the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil. And He who had brought this man from not being into being, had also power to leave him as he was.
2. But some say, that this conjunction is not at all expressive of cause, but relates to the consequence of the miracle; as when He says, For judgment I have come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind John 9:39; and yet it was not for this He came, that those who saw might be made blind. And again Paul, Because that which may be known of God is manifested in them, that they may be without excuse Romans 1:19-20; yet He showed it not unto them for this, that they might be deprived of excuse, but that they might obtain excuse. And again in another place, The Law entered, that the offense might abound Romans 5:20; yet it was not for this that it entered, but that sin might be checked. Do you see everywhere that the conjunction relates to the consequence? For as some excellent architect may build part of a house, and leave the rest unfinished, so that to those who believe not he may prove, by means of that remnant, that he is author of the whole; so also God joins together and completes our body, as it were a house decayed, healing the withered hand, bracing the palsied limbs, straightening the lame, cleansing the lepers, raising up the sick, making sound the crippled, recalling the dead from death, opening the eyes that were closed, or adding them where before they were not; all which things, being blemishes arising from the infirmity of our nature, He by correcting showed His power.
But when He said, That the glory of God might be manifested, He spoke of Himself, not of the Father; His glory was already manifest. For since they had heard that God made man, taking the dust of the earth, so also Christ made clay. To have said, I am He who took the dust of the earth, and made man, would have seemed a hard thing to His hearers; but this when shown by actual working, no longer stood in their way. So that He by taking earth, and mixing it with spittle, showed forth His hidden glory; for no small glory was it that He should be deemed the Architect of the creation.
And after this the rest also followed; from the part, the whole was proved, since the belief of the greater also confirmed the less. For man is more honorable than any created thing, and of our members the most honorable is the eye. This is the cause that He fashioned the eyes, not in a common manner, but in the way that He did. For though that member be small in size, yet it is more necessary than any part of the body. And this Paul showed when he said, If the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 1 Corinthians 12:16 For all indeed that is in us is a manifestation of the wisdom of God, but much more the eye; this it is that guides the whole body, this gives beauty to it all, this adorns the countenance, this is the light of all the limbs. What the sun is in the world, that the eye is in the body; quench the sun, and you destroy and confound all things; quench the eyes, and the feet, the hands, the soul, are useless. When these are disabled, even knowledge is gone, since by means of these we know God. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Romans 1:20 Wherefore the eye is not only a light to the body, but beyond the body to the soul also. On which account it is established as in a royal fortress, obtaining the higher condition, and presiding over the other senses. This then Christ forms.
And that you may not deem that He needs matter when He works, and that you may learn that He had not need at all of clay, (for He who brought into being the greater existences when as yet they were not, would much more have made this without matter,) that I say you may learn that He did not this through necessity, but to show that He was the Creator at the beginning, when He had spread on the clay He says, Go, wash, that you may know that I need not clay to create eyes, but that My glory may be manifested hereby. For to show that He spoke of Himself when He said, That the glory of God may be manifested, He added,
I must work the works of Him that sent Me.
That is, I must manifest Myself, and do the things which may show that I do the same things with the Father; not things similar, but, the same, an expression which marks greater unvaryingness, and which is used of those who do not differ ever so little. Who then after this will face Him, when he sees that He has the same power with the Father? For not only did He form or open eyes, but gave also the gift of sight, which is a proof that He also breathed in the soul. Since if that did not work, the eye, though perfected, could never see anything; so that He gave both the energy which is from the soul, and gave the member also possessing all things, both arteries and nerves and veins, and all things of which our body is composed.
I must work while it is day.
What mean these words? To what conclusion do they lead? To an important one. For what He says is of this kind. While it is day, while men may believe in Me, while this life lasts, I must work.
The night comes, that is, futurity, when no man can work.
He said not, when I cannot work, but, when no man can work: that is, when there is no longer faith, nor labors, nor repentance. For to show that He calls faith, a work, when they say unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? John 6:28, He replies, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent. How then can no man work this work in the future world? Because there faith is not, but all, willingly, or unwillingly, will submit. For lest any one should say that He acted as He did from desire of honor, He shows that He did all to spare them who had power to believe here only, but who could no longer there gain any good thing. On this account, though the blind man came not to Him, He did what He did: for that the man was worthy to be healed, that had he seen he would have believed and come to Christ, that had he heard from any that He was present, he would not even so have been neglectful, is clear from what follows, from his courage, from his very faith. For it was likely that he would have considered with himself, and have said, What is this? He made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go, wash;’ could he not have healed me, and then have sent me to Siloam? Often have I washed there with many others, and have gained no good; had he possessed any power, he would while present have healed me. Just as Naaman spoke respecting Elisha; for he too being commanded to go wash in Jordan, believed not, and this too when there was such a fame abroad concerning Elisha. 2 Kings 5:11 But the blind man neither disbelieved, nor contradicted, nor reasoned with himself, What is this? Ought he to have put on clay? This is rather to blind one the more: who ever recovered sight so? But he used no such reasonings. Do you see his steadfast faith and zeal?
The night comes. Next He shows, that even after the Crucifixion He would care for the ungodly, and bring many to Himself. For it is yet day. But after that, He entirely cuts them off, and declaring this, He says,
As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.
3. As also He said to others, Believe while the light is with you. John 12:36 Wherefore then did Paul call this life night and that other day? Not opposing Christ, but saying the same thing, if not in words yet in sense; for he also says, The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Romans 13:12 The present time he calls night, because of those who sit in darkness, or because he compares it with that day which is to come, Christ calls the future night, because there sin has no power to work; but Paul calls the present life night, because they are in darkness who continue in wickedness and unbelief. Addressing himself then to the faithful he said, The night is far spent, the day is at hand, since they should enjoy that light; and he calls the old life night. Let us put away, he says, the works of darkness. Do you see that he tells them that it is night? Wherefore he says, Let us walk honestly as in the day, that we may enjoy that light. For if this light be so good, consider what that will be; as much as the sunlight is brighter than the flame of a candle, so much and far more is that light better than this. And signifying this, Christ says, that the sun shall be darkened. Because of the excess of that brightness, not even the sun shall be seen.
If now in order to have here well-lighted and airy houses, we expend immense sums, building and toiling, consider how we ought to spend our very bodies themselves, that glorious houses may be built for us in the heavens where is that Light ineffable. Here there are strifes and contentions about boundaries and walls, but there will be nothing of the kind there, no envy, no malice, no one will dispute with us about settling boundaries. This dwelling too we assuredly needs must leave, but that abides with us forever; this must decay by time, and be exposed to innumerable injuries, but that must remain without growing old perpetually; this a poor man cannot build, but that other one may build with two mites, as did the widow. Wherefore I choke with grief, that when so many blessings are laid before us, we are slothful, and despise them; we use every exertion to have splendid houses here, but how to gain in heaven so much as a little resting-place, we care not, we think not. For tell me, where would you have your dwelling here? In the wilderness, or in one of the smaller cities? I think not; but in some of the most royal and grand cities, where the traffic is more, where the splendor is greater. But I will lead you into such a City, whose Builder and Maker is God; there I exhort you to found and build, at less cost [with less labor ]. That house the hands of the poor build, and it is most truly building, just as the structures made here are the work of extreme folly. For if a man were to bring you into the land of Persia, to behold what is there and to return, and were then to bid you build houses there, would you not condemn him for excessive folly, as bidding you spend unseasonably? How then do you this very same thing upon the earth which you shall shortly leave? But I shall leave it to my children, says some one. Yet they too shall leave it soon after you; nay, often even before you; and their successors the same. And even here it is a subject of melancholy to you that you see not your heirs retain their possessions, but there you need apprehend nothing of the sort; the possession remains immovable, to you, to your children, and to their descendants, if they imitate the same goodness. That building Christ takes in hand, he who builds that needs not to appoint care-takers, nor be thoughtful, nor anxious; for when God has undertaken the work, what need of thought? He brings all things together, and raises the house. Nor is this the only thing wonderful, but also that He so builds it as is pleasing to you, or rather even beyond what is pleasing, beyond what you desire, for He is the most excellent Artist, and cares greatly for your advantage. If you are poor, and desirest to build this house, it brings you no envy, produces against you no malice, for none of those who know how to envy behold it, but the Angels who know how to rejoice at your blessings; none will be able to encroach upon it, for none dwell near it of those who are diseased with such passions. For neighbors you have there the saints, Peter and Paul with their company, all the Prophets, the Martyrs, the multitude of Angels, of Archangels. For the sake then of all these things, let us empty our substance upon the poor, that we may obtain those tabernacles; which may we all obtain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
Homily 57 on the Gospel of John
When Jesus had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.
1. Those who intend to gain any advantage from what they read, must not pass by even any small portion of the words; and on this account we are bidden to search the Scriptures, because most of the words, although at first sight easy, appear to have in their depth much hidden meaning. For observe of what sort is the present case. Having said these words, It says, He spat on the ground. What words? That the glory of God should be made manifest, and that, I must work the works of Him that sent Me. For not without a cause has the Evangelist mentioned to us His words, and added that, He spat, but to show that He confirmed His words by deeds. And why used He not water instead of spittle for the clay? He was about to send the man to Siloam: in order therefore that nothing might be ascribed to the fountain, but that you might learn that the power proceeding from His mouth, the same both formed and opened the man’s eyes, He spat on the ground; this at least the Evangelist signified, when he said, And made clay of the spittle. Then, that the successful issue might not seem to be of the earth, He bade him wash. But wherefore did He not this at once, instead of sending him to Siloam? That you may learn the faith of the blind man, and that the obstinacy of the Jews might be silenced: for it was probable that they would all see him as he departed, having the clay spread upon his eyes, since by the strangeness of the thing he would attract to himself all, both those who did and those who did not know him, and they would observe him exactly. And because it is not easy to recognize a blind man who has recovered sight, He first makes by the length of way many to be witnesses, and by the strangeness of the spectacle exact observers, that being more attentive they may no longer be able to say, It is he: it is not he. Moreover, by sending him to Siloam, He desires to prove that He is not estranged from the Law and the Old (Covenant), nor could it afterwards be feared that Siloam would receive the glory, since many who had often washed their eyes there gained no such benefit; for there also it was the power of Christ that wrought all. On which account the Evangelist adds for us the interpretation of the name; for having said, in Siloam, he adds,
Which is, Sent.
That you may learn that there also it was Christ who healed him. As Paul says, They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 As then Christ was the spiritual Rock, so also was He the spiritual Siloam. To me also the sudden coming in of the water seems to hint an ineffable mystery. What is that? The unlooked for (nature) of His appearance, beyond all expectation.
But observe the mind of the blind man, obedient in everything. He said not, If it is really the clay or the spittle which gives me eyes, what need of Siloam? Or if there be need of Siloam, what need of the clay? Why did he anoint me? Why bid me wash? But he entertained no such thoughts, he held himself prepared for one thing only, to obey in all things Him who gave the command, and nothing that was done offended him. If any one ask, How then did he recover his sight, when he had removed the clay? he will hear no other answer from us than that we know not the manner. And what wonder if we know it not, since not even the Evangelist knew, nor the very man that was healed? What had been done he knew, but the manner of doing it he could not comprehend. So when he was asked he said, that He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and do see; but how this took place he cannot tell them, though they ask ten thousand times.
The neighbors therefore, and they which had seen him, that he was a beggar, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he.
The strangeness of what had been brought to pass led them even to unbelief, though so much had been contrived that they might not disbelieve. They said, Is not this he that sat and begged? O the lovingkindness of God! Whither did He descend, when with great kindness He healed even beggars, and so silenced the Jews, because He deemed not the illustrious, nor the distinguished, nor the rulers, but men of no mark to be fit objects of the same Providence. For He came for the salvation of all.
And what happened in the case of the paralytic, happened also with this man, for neither did the one or the other know who it was that healed him. And this was caused by the retirement of Christ, for Jesus when He healed always retired, that all suspicion might be removed from the miracles. Since how could they who knew not who He was flatter Him, or join in contriving what had been done? Neither was this man one of those who went about, but of those who sat at the doors of the Temple. Now when all were doubting concerning him, what says he?
I am he.
He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor did he fear the wrath of the people, nor did he decline showing himself that he might proclaim his Benefactor.
They said unto him, How were your eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus.
What do you say? Does a man work such deeds? As yet he knew nothing great concerning Him.
A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes.
2. Observe how truthful he is. He says not whence He made it, for he speaks not of what he does not know; he saw not that He spat on the ground, but that He spread it on he knew from sense and touch.
And said unto me, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.
This too his hearing witnessed to him. But how did he recognize His voice? From His conversation with the disciples. And saying all this, and having received the witness by the works, the manner (of the cure) he cannot tell. Now if faith is needed in matters which are felt and handled, much more in the case of things invisible.
They said unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
They said, Where is he? having already murderous intentions against Him. But observe the modesty of Christ, how He continued not with those who were healed; because He neither desired to reap glory, nor to draw a multitude, nor to make a show of Himself. Observe too how truthfully the blind man makes all his answers. The Jews desired to find Christ to bring Him to the priests, but when they did not find Him, they brought the blind man to the Pharisees, as to those who would question him more severely. For which reason the Evangelist remarks, that it was the Sabbath John 9:14, in order to point out their wicked thoughts, and the cause for which they sought Him, as though forsooth they had found a handle, and could disparage the miracle by means of what appeared to be a transgression of the Law. And this is clear from their saying immediately on seeing him nothing but, How opened he your eyes? Observe also the manner of their speech; they say not, How did you receive your sight? but, How opened he your eyes? thus affording him an excuse for slandering Jesus, because of His having worked. But he speaks to them shortly, as to men who had already heard; for without mentioning His name, or that He said unto me, Go, wash, he at once says,
He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and do see.
Because the slander was now become great, and the Jews had said, Behold what work Jesus does on the Sabbath day, he anoints with clay! But observe, I pray you, how the blind man is not disturbed. When being questioned he spoke in the presence of those others without danger, it was no such great thing to tell the truth, but the wonder is, that now when he is placed in a situation of greater fear, he neither denies nor contradicts what he had said before. What then did the Pharisees, or rather what did the others also? They had brought him (to the Pharisees), as being about to deny; but, on the contrary, that befell them which they desired not, and they learned more exactly. And this they everywhere have to endure, in the case of miracles; but this point we will more clearly demonstrate in what follows. What said the Pharisees?
Some said, (not all, but the more forward,) This man is not of God, because he keeps not the Sabbath day; others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?
Do you see that they were led up by the miracles? For hear what they say now, who before this had sent to bring Him. And if all did not so, (for being rulers through vainglory they fell into unbelief,) yet still the greater number even of the rulers believed on Him, but confessed Him not. Now the multitude was easily overlooked, as being of no great account in their synagogue, but the rulers being more conspicuous had the greater difficulty in speaking boldly, or some the love of rule restrained, others cowardice, and the fear of the many. Wherefore also He said, How can you believe who receive honor from men? John 5:44 And these who were seeking to kill Him unjustly said that they were of God, but that He who healed the blind could not be of God, because He kept not the Sabbath; to which the others objected, that a sinner could not do such miracles. Those first maliciously keeping silence about what had taken place, brought forward the seeming transgression; for they said not, He heals on the Sabbath day, but, He keeps not the Sabbath. These, on the other hand, replied weakly, for when they ought to have shown that the Sabbath was not broken, they rely only upon the miracles; and with reason, for they still thought that He was a man. If this had not been the case, they might besides have urged in His defense, that He was Lord of the Sabbath which Himself had made, but as yet they had not this opinion. Anyhow, none of them dared to say what he wished openly, or in the way of an assertion, but only in the way of doubt, some from not having boldness of speech, others through love of rule.
There was therefore a division among them. This division first began among the people, then later among the rulers also, and some said, He is a good man; others, Nay, but he deceives the people. John 7:12 Do you see that the rulers were more void of understanding than the many, since they were divided later than they? And after they were divided, they did not exhibit any noble feeling, when they saw the Pharisees pressing upon them. Since had they been entirely separated from them, they would soon have known the truth. For it is possible to do well in separating. Wherefore also Himself has said, I have come not to bring peace upon the earth but a sword. Matthew 10:34 For there is an evil concord, and there is a good disagreement. Thus they who built the tower Genesis 11:4, agreed together to their own hurt; and these same again were separated, though unwillingly, yet for their good. Thus also Corah and his company agreed together for evil, therefore they were separated for good; and Judas agreed with the Jews for evil. So division may be good, and agreement may be evil. Wherefore It says, If your eye offend you, smite it out, if your foot, cut it off. Matthew 5:29, and 18:8 Now if we must separate ourselves from an ill-joined limb, must we not much more from friends united to us for evil ? So that agreement is not in all cases a good, just as division is not in all cases an evil.
3. These things I say, that we may shun wicked men, and follow the good; for if in the case of our limbs we cut off that which is rotten and incurable, fearing lest the rest of the body should catch the same disease, and if we do this not as having no care for that part, but rather as desiring to preserve the remainder, how much more must we do this in the case of those who consent with us for evil? If we can set them right without receiving injury ourselves, we ought to use every means to do so; but if they remain incorrigible and may injure us, it is necessary to cut them off and cast them away. For so they will often be gainers rather (than losers). Wherefore also Paul exhorted, saying, And you shall put away from among yourselves that wicked person; and, that he that has done this deed may be put away from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:13 A dreadful thing, dreadful indeed, is the society of wicked men; not so quickly does the pestilence seize or the itch infect those that come in contact with such as are under the disease, as does the wickedness of evil men. For evil communications corrupt good manners. 1 Corinthians 15:33 And again the Prophet says, Come out from among them, and be ye separate. Isaiah 52:11 Let no one then have a wicked man for his friend. For if when we have bad sons we publicly disclaim them, without regarding nature or its laws, or the constraint which it lays upon us, much more ought we to fly from our companions and acquaintances when they are wicked. Because even if we receive no injury from them, we shall anyhow not be able to escape ill report, for strangers search not into our lives, but judge us from our companions. This advice I address to young men and maidens. Providing, It says, things honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of all men. Romans 12:17 Let us then use every means that our neighbor be not offended. For a life, though it be very upright, if it offend others has lost all. But how is it possible for the life that is upright to offend? When the society of those that are not upright invests it with an evil reputation; for when, trusting in ourselves, we consort with bad men, even though we be not harmed, we offend others. These things I say to men and women and maidens, leaving it to their conscience to see exactly how many evils are produced from this source. Neither I, perhaps, nor any of the more perfect, suspect any ill; but the simpler brother is harmed by occasion of your perfection; and you ought to be careful also for his infirmity. And even if he receive no injury, yet the Greek is harmed. Now Paul bids us be without offense, both to Jews and Greeks, and to the Church of God. 1 Corinthians 10:32 (I think no evil of the virgin, for I love virginity, and love thinks no evil 1 Corinthians 13:5; I am a great admirer of that state of life, and I cannot have so much as an unseemly thought about it.) How shall we per suade those that are without? For we must take forethought for them also. Let us then so order what relates to ourselves, that none of the unbelievers may be able even to find a just handle of accusation against us. For as they who show forth a right life glorify God, so they who do the contrary cause Him to be blasphemed. May no such persons be among us: but may our works so shine, that our Father which is in Heaven may be glorified, and that we may enjoy the honor which is from Him. To which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Homily 58 on the Gospel of John
They say unto the blind man again, What do you say of him, that he has opened your eyes? He said, He is a Prophet. The Jews then did not believe.
1. We must go over the Scriptures not in a chance way or carelessly, but with all exactness, that we be not entangled. Since even now in this place one might with show of reason question, how, when they had asserted, This man is not of God, because he keeps not the Sabbath, they now say to the man, What do you say of him, that he has opened your eyes? and not, What do you say of him, that he has broken the Sabbath? but put now that which was the ground of the defense, not that of the accusation. What then have we to reply? That these (who speak) are not the men who said, This man is not of God, but those who separated themselves from them, who also said, A man that is a sinner cannot do such miracles. For desiring to silence their opponents the more, in order that they may not seem to be partisans of Christ, they bring forward the man who had received proof of His power, and question him. Observe now the wisdom of the poor man, he speaks more wisely than them all. First he says, He is a Prophet; and shrank not from the judgment of the perverse Jews who spoke against Him and said, How can this man be of God, not keeping the Sabbath? but replied to them, He is a Prophet.
And they did not believe that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they had called his parents.
Observe in how many ways they attempt to obscure and take away the miracle. But this is the nature of truth, by the very means by which it seems to be assailed by men, by these it becomes stronger, it shines by means of that by which it is obscured. For if these things had not taken place, the miracle might have been suspected by the many; but now, as if desiring to lay bare the truth, so do they use all means, and would not have acted otherwise, supposing they had done all in Christ’s behalf. For they first attempted to cast Him down by occasion of this mode (of cure), saying, How opened he your eyes? that is, was it by some sorcery? In another place also, when they had no charge to bring against Him, they endeavored to insult the mode of the cure, saying, He does not cast out devils save by Beelzebub. Matthew 12:24 And here again, when they have nothing to say, they betake themselves to the time (of cure), saying, He breaks the Sabbath; and again, He is a sinner. Yet He asked you, who would slay Him, and who were ready to lay hold of His actions, most plainly, saying, Which of you convinces Me of sin? John 8:46; and no man spoke, nor said Thou blaspheme because you make yourself without sin. But if they had had it in their power to say so, they would not have held their peace. For they who because they heard that He was before Abraham would have stoned Him, and said that He was not of God, who boasted that they, murderers as they were, were of God, but who said that One who did such wonders, after that He had wrought a cure, was not of God, because He kept not the Sabbath, if they had had but a shadow of a charge against Him, would never have let it pass. And if they call Him a sinner because He seemed to break the Sabbath, this charge also is shown to be unsound, when those who are ranked with them condemn their great coldness and littleness of soul. Being therefore entangled on every side, they afterwards betake themselves to something else more shameless and impudent. What is that? They did not believe, It says, that he had been blind, and received his sight. How then did they charge Christ with not keeping the Sabbath? Plainly, as having believed. But why gave ye not heed to the great number of people? To the neighbors who knew him? As I said, falsehood everywhere defeats itself by the very means by which it seems to annoy the truth, and makes the truth to appear more bright. Which was now the case. For that no one might say that his neighbors and those who had seen him did not speak with precision, but guessed from a likeness, they bring forward his parents, by whom they succeeded against their will in proving that what had taken place was real, since the parents best of all knew their own child. When they could not terrify the man himself, but beheld him with all boldness proclaim his Benefactor, they thought to wound the miracle by means of his parents. Observe the malice of their questioning. For what says it? Having placed them in the midst so as to throw them into distress, they apply the questioning with great severity and anger,
Is this your son? (and they said not, who once was blind, but) of whom you say that he was born blind?
As if they were acting deceitfully, and plotting on behalf of Christ. O you accursed, utterly accursed! What father would choose to invent such falsehoods against his child? For they almost say, Whom you have made out blind, and not only so, but have spread abroad the report everywhere.
How then does he now see?
2. O folly! Yours, says one, is the trick and the contrivance. For by these two things do they attempt to lead the parents to a denial; by using the words, Whom ye say, and, How then does he now see? Now when there were three questions asked, whether he was their son, whether he had been blind, and how he received his sight, the parents only acknowledged two of them, but do not add the third. And this came to pass for the sake of the truth, in order that none other save the man that was healed, who was also worthy of credit, should acknowledge this matter. And how would the parents have favored (Christ), when even of what they knew some part they spoke not through fear of the Jews? What say they?
We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we know not, or who has opened his eyes we know not; he is of age, he shall speak for himself.
By making him to be worthy of credit, they begged off themselves; He is not a child, say they, nor incapable, but able to testify for himself.
These words spoke they, because they feared the Jews.
Observe how the Evangelist again brings forward their opinion and thoughts. This I say, because of that speech which they before uttered, when they said, He makes Himself equal to God. John 5:18 For had that also been the opinion of the Jews but not the judgment of Christ, he would have added and said, that it was a Jewish opinion. When therefore the parents referred them to him that had been healed, they called him again the second time, and did not say openly and shamelessly, Deny that Christ healed you, but would fain effect this under a pretense of piety.
Give the glory to God.
For to have said to the parents, Deny that he is your son, and that he was born blind, would have seemed very ridiculous. And again, to have said this to himself would have been manifest shamelessness. Wherefore they say not so, but manage the matter in another way, saying, Give God the glory, that is, confess that this man has wrought nothing.
We know that this man is a sinner.
Why then did ye not convict Him when He said, ‘Which of you convinces Me of sin?’ John 8:46 Whence know ye that He is a sinner? After that they had said, Give God the glory, and the man had made no reply, Christ meeting praised him, and did not rebuke him, nor say, Wherefore have you not given glory to God? But what said He? Do you believe in the Son of God? John 9:35, that you may learn that this is to give glory to God. Now had He not been equal in honor to the Father, this would not have been giving glory; but since he that honors the Son honors the Father also, the blind is with good reason not rebuked. Now while they expected that the parents would contradict and deny the miracle, the Pharisees said nothing to the man himself, but when they saw that they profited nothing by this, they again return to him, saying, This man is a sinner.
He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not; one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
Surely the blind man was not terrified? That be far from him. How then does he who said, He is a Prophet John 9:17, now say, Whether he be a sinner, I know not? He said so, not as being in such a state of mind, nor as having persuaded himself of this thing, but desiring to clear Him from their charges by the testimony of the fact, not by his own declaration, and to make the defense credible, when the testimony of the good deed done should decide the matter against them. Since if after many words when the blind man said, Except this were a righteous man he could not do such miracles John 9:33, they were so enraged as to reply, You were altogether born in sin, and do you teach us? what would they not have said, if he had spoken so from the beginning; what would they not have done? Whether he be a sinner or not, I know not; as though he had said, I say nothing in this man’s favor, I make no declaration at present, yet this I certainly know and would affirm, that if he were a sinner he could not have done such things. Thus he kept himself free from suspicion, and his testimony uncorrupted, as not speaking from partiality, but as bearing witness according to the fact. When therefore they could neither upset nor remove what had been done, they again return to their former plan, making trifling enquiries about the manner of the cure, like men who search on every side about a prey which is before them, and cannot be hurt, hastening round now in one direction, now in another; and they recur to the man’s former assertions, in order now to make them unsound by continual questions, and say,
What did he to you? How opened he your eyes?
What was his reply? Having conquered and cast them down, he no longer speaks to them submissly. As long as the matter needed enquiry and arguments he spoke guardedly, while he supplied the proof; but when he had conquered and gained a splendid victory, he then takes courage, and tramples upon them. What says he?
I have told you once, and you did not hear; wherefore would ye hear it again?
Do you see the bold-speaking of a beggar towards Scribes and Pharisees? So strong is truth, so weak is falsehood. Truth, though she take hold but of ordinary men, makes them to appear glorious; the other, even though it be with the strong, shows them weak. What he says is of this kind: You give no heed to my words, therefore I will no longer speak or answer you continually, who question me to no purpose, and who do not desire to hear in order to learn, but that you may insult over my words.
Will ye also be His disciples?
3. Now he has ranked himself among the band of disciples, for the will you also? is the expression of one who is declaring himself to be a disciple. Then he mocked and annoyed them abundantly. For since he knew that this struck them hard, he said it, wishing to upbraid them with exceeding severity; the act of a soul courageous, soaring on high and despising their madness, pointing out the greatness of this dignity, in which he was very confident, and showing that they insulted him who was a man worthy to be admired, but that he took not the insult to himself, but grasped as an honor what they offered as a reproach.
You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.
But this cannot be. You are neither Moses’ nor this Man’s; for were ye Moses’, you would become this Man’s also. Wherefore Christ before said unto them, because they were continually betaking themselves to these speeches, Had ye believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. John 5:46
We know that God spoke unto Moses.
By whose word, whose report? That of our forefathers, says one. Is not He then more to be believed than your forefathers, who confirms by miracles that He came from God, and that He speaks things from above? They said not, We have heard that God spoke to Moses, but, We know. Do ye affirm, O Jews, what you have by hearing, as knowing it, but deem what you have by sight as less certain than what you have by hearing? Yet the one ye saw not, but heard, the other ye did not hear, but saw. What then says the blind man?
Why herein is a marvelous thing, that you know not whence He is, and He does such miracles.
That a Man, who is not one of the distinguished or noble or illustrious among you, can do such things; so that it is in every way clear that He is God, needing no human aid.
We know that God hears not sinners.
Since they had been the first to say, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? John 9:16, he now brings forward even their judgment, reminding them of their own words. This opinion, says he, is common to me and you. Stand fast now to it. And observe, I pray you, his wisdom. He turns about the miracle in every way, because they could not do away with it, and from it he draws his inferences. Do you see that at first he said Whether he be a sinner or not, I know not? Not doubting (God forbid!) but knowing that He was not a sinner. At least now, when he had an opportunity, see how he defended Him. We know that God hears not sinners:
But if any man be a worshiper of God, and does His will.
Here he not only has cleared Him from sin, but declares that He is very pleasing to God, and does all His will. For since they called themselves worshipers of God, he added, and does His will; since, says he, it is not sufficient to know God: men must also do His will. Then he magnifies what had been done, saying,
Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
If now ye acknowledge that God hears not sinners, and this Person has wrought a miracle, and such a miracle as no man ever wrought, it is clear that He has surpassed all things in virtue, and that His power is greater than belongs to man. What then say they?
You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?
As long as they expected that he would deny Christ, they deemed him trustworthy, calling upon him once and a second time. If you deemed him not trustworthy, why did ye call and question him a second time? But when he spoke the truth, unabashed, then, when they ought most to have admired, they condemned him. But what is the, You were altogether born in sins? They here unsparingly reproach him with his very blindness, as though they had said, You are in sins from your earliest age; insinuating that on this account he was born blind; which was contrary to reason. On this point at least Christ comforting him said, For judgment I have come into the world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind. John 9:39
You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us? Why, what had the man said? Did he set forth his private opinion? Did he not set forth a common judgment, saying, We know that God hears not sinners? Did he not produce your own words?
And they cast him out.
Have you beheld the herald of the truth, how poverty was no hindrance to his true wisdom? Do you see what reproaches, what sufferings he bare from the beginning, and how by word and by deed he testified?
4. Now these things are recorded, that we too may imitate them. For if the blind man, the beggar, who had not even seen Him, straightway showed such boldness even before he was encouraged by Christ, standing opposed to a whole people, murderous, possessed, and raving, who desired by means of his voice to condemn Christ, if he neither yielded nor gave back, but most boldly stopped their mouths, and chose rather to be cast out than to betray the truth; how much more ought we, who have lived so long in the faith, who have seen ten thousand marvels wrought by faith, who have received greater benefits than he, have recovered the sight of the eyes within, have beheld the ineffable Mysteries, and have been called to such honor, how ought we, I say, to exhibit all boldness of speech towards those who attempt to accuse, and who say anything against the Christians, and to stop their mouths, and not to acquiesce without an effort. And we shall be able to do this, if we are bold, and give heed to the Scriptures, and hear them not carelessly. For if one should come in here regularly, even though he read not at home, if he attends to what is said here, one year even is sufficient to make him well versed in them; because we do not today read one kind of Scriptures, and tomorrow another, but always and continually the same. Still such is the wretched disposition of the many, that after so much reading, they do not even know the names of the Books, and are not ashamed nor tremble at entering so carelessly into a place where they may hear God’s word. Yet if a harper, or dancer, or stage-player call the city, they all run eagerly, and feel obliged to him for the call, and spend the half of an entire day in attending to him alone; but when God speaks to us by Prophets and Apostles, we yawn, we scratch ourselves, we are drowsy. And in summer, the heat seems too great, and we betake ourselves to the market place; and again, in winter, the rain and mire are a hindrance, and we sit at home; yet at horse races, though there is no roof over them to keep off the wet, the greater number, while heavy rains are falling, and the wind is dashing the water into their faces, stand like madmen, caring not for cold, and wet, and mud, and length of way, and nothing either keeps them at home, or prevents their going there. But here, where there are roofs over head, and where the warmth is admirable, they hold back instead of running together; and this too, when the gain is that of their own souls. How is this tolerable, tell me? Thus it happens, that while we are more skilled than any in those matters, in things necessary we are more ignorant than children. If a man call you a charioteer, or a dancer, you say that you have been insulted, and use every means to wipe off the affront; but if he draw you to be a spectator of the action, you do not start away, and the art whose name you shun, you almost in every case pursue. But where you ought to have both the action and the name, both to be and to be called a Christian, you do not even know what kind of thing the action is. What can be worse than this folly? These things I have desired continually to say to you, but I fear lest I gain hatred in vain and unprofitably. For I perceive that not only the young are mad, but the old also; about whom I am especially ashamed, when I see a man venerable from his white hairs, disgracing those white hairs, and drawing a child after him. What is worse than this mockery? What more shameful than this conduct? The child is taught by the father to act unseemly.
5. Do the words sting? This is what I desire, that you should suffer the pain caused by the words, in order to be delivered from the disgrace caused by the actions. For there are some too far colder than these, who are not even ashamed at the things spoken of, nay, who even put together a long argument in defense of the action. If you ask them who was Amos or Obadiah, or what is the number of the Prophets or Apostles, they cannot even open their mouth but for horses and charioteers, they compose excuses more cleverly than sophists or rhetoricians, and after all this, they say, What is the harm? What is the loss? This is what I groan for, that you do not so much as know that the action is a loss, nor have a sense of its evils. God has given to you an appointed space of life for serving Him, and do you while you spend it vainly, and at random, and on nothing useful, still ask, What loss is there? If you have spent a little money to no purpose, you call it a loss: when you spend whole days of yours upon the devil’s pageants, do you think that you are doing nothing wrong? You ought to spend all your life in supplications and prayers, whereas you waste your life and substance heedlessly, and to your own hurt, on shouts, and uproar, and shameful words, and fighting, and unseasonable pleasure, and actions performed by trickery, and after all this you ask, What is the loss? not knowing you should be lavish of anything rather than time. Gold, if you shall have spent, you may get again; but if you lose time, you shall hardly recover that. Little is dealt out to us in this present life; if therefore we employ it not as we ought, what shall we say when we depart there? For tell me, if you had commanded one of your sons to learn some art, and then he had continually stayed at home, or even passed his time somewhere else, would not the teacher reject him? Would he not say to you, You have made an agreement with me, and appointed a time; if now your son will not spend this time with me but in other places, how shall I produce him to you as a scholar? Thus also we must speak. For God will say also to us, I gave you time to learn this art of piety, wherefore have ye foolishly and uselessly wasted that time? Why did ye neither go constantly to the teacher, nor give heed to his words? For to show that piety is an art, hear what the Prophet says, Come, you children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Psalm 34:11 And again, Blessed is the man whom You instruct, Lord, and teachest him out of Your Law. Psalm 94:12 When therefore you have spent this time in vain, what excuse will you have? And why, says some one, did He deal out to us but little time? O senselessness and ingratitude! That for which thou were most bounden to give thanks to Him, for that He has cut short your labors and abridged your toils, and made the rest long and everlasting, for this do you find fault, and art discontented?
But I know not how we have brought our discourse to this point, and have made it so long; we must therefore shorten it now. For this too is a part of our wretchedness, that here if the discourse be long, we all become careless, while there they begin at noon, and retire by torch and lamp light. However, that we be not always chiding, we now entreat and beseech you, grant this favor to us and to yourselves; and getting free from all other matters, to these let us rivet ourselves. So shall we gain from you joy and gladness, and honor on your account, and a recompense for these labors; while you will reap all the reward, because having been aforetime so madly riveted to the stage, you tore yourselves away, through fear of God, and by our exhortations, from that malady, and broke your bonds, and hastened unto God. Nor is it there alone that you shall receive your reward, but here also you shall enjoy pure pleasure. Such a thing is virtue; besides giving us crowns in heaven, even here it makes life pleasant to us. Let us then be persuaded by what has been said, that we may obtain the blessings both here and hereafter, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
Homily 59 on the Gospel of John
And they cast him out. And Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said unto him, Do you believe in the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him? And the rest.
1. They who for the sake of the truth and the confession of Christ suffer anything terrible and are insulted, these are especially honored. For as he who loses his possessions for His sake, the same it is who most finds them; as he who hates his own life, the same it is who most loves it; so too he who is insulted, is the same who is most honored. As fell out in the case of the blind man. The Jews cast him out from the Temple, and the Lord of the Temple found him; he was separated from that pestilent company, and met with the Fountain of salvation; he was dishonored by those who dishonored Christ, and was honored by the Lord of Angels. Such are the prizes of truth. And so we, if we leave our possessions in this world, find confidence in the next; if here we give to the afflicted, we shall have rest in heaven; if we be insulted for the sake of God, we are honored both here and there.
When they had cast him out from the Temple, Jesus found him. The Evangelist shows, that He came for the purpose of meeting him. And observe how He recompenses him, by that which is the chiefest of blessings. For He made Himself known to him who before knew Him not, and enrolled him into the company of His own disciples. Observe also how the Evangelist describes the exact circumstances; for when Christ had said, Do you believe in the Son of God? the man replied, Lord, who is He? For as yet he knew Him not, although he had been healed; because he was blind before he came to his Benefactor, and after the cure, he was being worried by those dogs. Therefore, like some judge at the games, He receives the champion who had toiled much and gained the crown. And what says He? Do you believe in the Son of God? What is this, after so much arguing against the Jews, after so many words, He asks him, Do you believe? He spoke it not from ignorance, but desiring to make Himself known, and showing that He gently valued the man’s faith. This great multitude, He says, has insulted Me, but of them I make no account; for one thing I care, that you should believe. For better is one who does the will of God, than ten thousand transgressors. Do you believe in the Son of God? As having both been present, and as approving what had been said by him, He asks this question; and first, He brought him to a state of longing for Himself. For He said not directly, Believe, but in the way of an enquiry. What then said the man? Lord, who is He, that I might believe in Him? The expression is that of a longing and enquiring soul. He knows not Him in whose defense he had spoken so much, that you may learn his love of truth. For he had not yet seen Him.
Jesus says unto him, You have both seen Him, and it is He that talks with you.
He said not I am He, but as yet in an intermediate and reserved manner, You have both seen Him. This was still uncertain; therefore He adds more clearly, It is He that talks with you.
He says, Lord, I believe; and he worshipped Him (straightway ).
He said not, I am He that healed you, that bade you, Go, wash in Siloam; but keeping silence on all these points, He says, Do you believe in the Son of God? and then the man, showing his great earnestness, straightway worshipped; which few of those who were healed had done; as, for instance, the lepers, and some others; by this act declaring His divine power. For that no one might think that what had been said by him was a mere expression, he added also the deed. When he had worshipped, Christ said,
For judgment I have come into the world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.
So also says Paul; What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of the faith of Jesus; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Romans 9:30-31 By saying, For judgment I have come into this world, He both made the man stronger respecting the faith, and aroused those who followed Him; for the Pharisees were following Him. And the, For judgment, He spoke with reference to a greater punishment; showing that they who had given sentence against Him, had received sentence against themselves; that they who had condemned Him as a sinner, were themselves the persons condemned. In this passage He speaks of two recoveries of sight, and two blindnesses; one sensible, the other spiritual.
Some of them that followed Him, say unto Him, Are we also blind?
As in another place they said, We were never servants to any man; and, We be not born of fornication c. viii. 33, 41; so now they gape on material things alone, and are ashamed of this kind of blindness. Then to show that it was better for them to be blind than seeing, He says,
If you were blind, you should have no sin.
Since they deemed the calamity a matter to be ashamed of, He turns this back upon their own head, telling them, that this very thing would have rendered your punishment more tolerable; cutting away on every side their human thoughts, and leading them to a notion high and marvelous.
But now ye say, We see.
As He says in that other place, Of whom you said that He was your God John 8:54; so too here, Now ye say that you see, but you see not. He shows that what they deemed a great matter for praise, brought punishment upon them. He also comforted him who was blind from his birth, concerning his former maimed state, and then speaks concerning their blindness. For He directs His whole speech to this end, that they may not say, We did not refuse to come to you owing to our blindness, but we turn away and avoid you as a deceiver.
2. And not without a cause has the Evangelist mentioned, that they of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said, Are we blind also? but to remind you that these were the men who first withdrew from and then stoned Him, for they were persons who followed Him superficially, and who easily changed to the contrary opinion. How then does He prove that He is not a deceiver, but a Shepherd? By laying down the distinguishing marks both of the shepherd, and of him who is a deceiver and a spoiler, and from these affording them opportunity of searching into the truth of the matter. And first He shows who is a deceiver and a spoiler, calling him so from the Scriptures, and saying,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Observe the marks of a robber; first, that he does not enter openly; secondly, not according to the Scriptures, for this is the, not by the door. Here also He referrs to those who had been before, and to those who should be after Him, Antichrist and the false Christs, Judas and Theudas, and whatever others there have been of the same kind. And with good cause He calls the Scriptures a door, for they bring us to God, and open to us the knowledge of God, they make the sheep, they guard them, and suffer not the wolves to come in after them. For Scripture, like some sure door, bars the passage against the heretics, placing us in a state of safety as to all that we desire, and not allowing us to wander; and if we undo it not, we shall not easily be conquered by our foes. By it we can know all, both those who are, and those who are not, shepherds. But what is into the fold? It refers to the sheep, and the care of them. For he that uses not the Scriptures, but climbs up some other way, that is, who cuts out for himself another and an unusual way, the same is a thief. Do you see from this too that Christ agrees with the Father, in that He brings forward the Scriptures? On which account also He said to the Jews, Search the Scriptures John 5:39; and brought forward Moses, and called him and all the Prophets witnesses, for all, says He, who hear the Prophets shall come to Me; and, Had ye believed Moses, you would have believed Me. But here He has put the same thing metaphorically. And by saying, climbs up some other way, He alluded to the Scribes, because they taught for commandments the doctrines of men, and transgressed the Law Matthew 15:9; with which He reproached them, and said, None of you does the Law. John 7:19 Well did He say, climbs up, not enters in, since to climb is the act of a thief intending to overleap a wall, and who does all with danger. Have you seen how He has sketched the robber? Now observe the character of the shepherd. What then is it?
He that enters in by the door, the same is the shepherd of the sheep; to him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own by name. And when he has brought them out, he goes before them.
3. He has set down the marks of the shepherd, and of the evil doer; let us now see how He has fitted to them what follows. To him, He says, the doorkeeper opens; He continues in the metaphor to make the discourse more emphatic. But if you should be minded to examine the parable word by word, there is nothing to hinder you from supposing Moses to be the doorkeeper, for to him were entrusted the oracles of God. Whose voice the sheep hear, and he calls his own by name. Because they everywhere said that He was a deceiver, and confirmed this by their own unbelief, saying, Which of the rulers has believed on him? John 7:48 He shows that they ought not on account of the unbelief of those persons to call Him a spoiler and deceiver, but that they, because they gave no heed to Him were consequently even excluded from the rank of sheep. For if a shepherd’s part is to enter through the usual door, and if He entered through this, all they who followed Him might be sheep, but they who rent themselves away, hurt not the reputation of the Shepherd, but cast themselves out from the kindred of the sheep. And if farther on He says that He is the door, we must not again be disturbed, for He also calls Himself Shepherd, and Sheep, and in different ways proclaims His dispensations. Thus, when He brings us to the Father, He calls Himself a Door, when He takes care of us, a Shepherd; and it is that you may not suppose, that to bring us to the Father is His only office, that He calls Himself a Shepherd. And the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep, and leads them out, and goes before them. Shepherds indeed do the contrary, for they follow after them; but He to show that He will lead all men to the truth, does differently; as also when He sent the sheep, He sent them, not out of the way of wolves, but in the midst of wolves. Matthew 10:16 For far more wonderful is this manner of keeping sheep than ours. He seems to me also to allude to the blind man, for him too, having called, He led out from the midst of the Jews, and the man heard His voice, and knew it.
And a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.
Certainly here He speaks of Theudas and Judas, (for all, as many as believed on them, were scattered [ Acts v. 36 ], It says,) or of the false Christs who after that time should deceive. For lest any should say that He was one of these, He in many ways separates Himself from them. And the first difference He sets down is His teaching from the Scriptures; for He by means of these led men to Him, but the others did not from these draw men after them. The second is, the obedience of the sheep; for on Him they all believed, not only while He lived, but when He had died; the others they straightway left. With these we may mention a third difference, no trifling one. They did all as rebels, and to cause revolts, but He placed Himself so far from such suspicion, that when they would have made Him a king, He fled; and when they asked, Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar? He bade them pay it, and Himself gave the two drachm piece. Matthew 17:27 Besides this, He indeed came for the saving of the sheep, That they might have life, and that they might have more abundantly John 10:10, but the others deprived them even of this present life. They betrayed those who were entrusted to them and fled, but He withstood so nobly as even to give up His life. They unwillingly, and by compulsion, and desiring to escape, suffered what they suffered, but He willingly and by choice endured all.
This parable spoke Jesus unto them, but they understood not what things they were which He spoke unto them.
And wherefore spoke He obscurely? Because He would make them more attentive; when He had effected this, He removes the obscurity, saying,
I am the door, by Me if any man enter in, he shall go in and out, and find pasture.
As though He had said, shall be in safety and security, (but by pasture, He here means His nurturing and feeding the sheep, and His power and Lordship,) that is, shall remain within, and none shall thrust him out. Which took place in the case of the Apostles, who came in and went out securely, as having become lords of all the world, and none was able to cast them out.
All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
He does not here speak of the Prophets, (as the heretics assert,) for as many as believed on Christ did hear them also, and were persuaded by them; but of Theudas and Judas, and the other exciters of sedition. Besides, He says, the sheep did not hear them, as praising them; now nowhere is He seen to praise those who refused to hearken to the Prophets, but, on the contrary, to reproach and accuse them vehemently; whence it is evident that the, did not hear, refers to those leaders of sedition.
The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
Which then took place when all (their followers) were slain and perished.
But I have come that they might have life, and that they might have more.
And what is more than life, tell me? The kingdom of heaven. But He does not as yet say this, but dwells on the name of life, which was known to them.
I am the good Shepherd.
Here He next speaks concerning the Passion, showing that this should be for the salvation of the world, and that He came to it not unwillingly. Then again He mentions the character of the shepherd and the hireling.
For the shepherd lays down his life.
But he that is an hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf comes and catches them.
Here He declares Himself to be Master even as the Father, if so be that He is the Shepherd, and the sheep are His. Do you see how He speaks in a more lofty tone in His parables, where the sense is concealed; and gives no open handle to the listeners? What then does this hireling? He sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and the wolf comes, and scatters them. This those false teachers did, but He the contrary. For when He was taken, He said, Let these go their way, that the saying might be fulfilled c. xviii. 8, 9, that not one of them was lost. Here also we may suspect a spiritual wolf to be intended; for neither did Christ allow him to go and seize the sheep. But he is not a wolf only, but a lion also. Because our adversary the devil, It says, walks about as a roaring lion. 1 Peter 5:8 He is also a serpent, and a dragon; for, Tread ye on serpents and scorpions. Luke 10:19
4. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us remain pasturing beneath this Shepherd; and we shall remain, if we obey Him, if we hear His voice, if we follow not a stranger. And what is His voice? Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the merciful. Matthew 5:3-8 If thus we do, we shall remain beneath the Shepherd, and the wolf will not be able to come in; or if he come against us, he will do so to his own hurt. For we have a Shepherd who so loves us, that He gave even His life for us. When therefore He is both powerful and loves us, what is there to hinder us from being saved? Nothing, unless we ourselves revolt from Him. And how can we revolt? Hear Him saying, You cannot serve two masters, God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 If then we serve God, we shall not submit to the tyranny of mammon. And truly a bitterer thing than any tyranny is the desire of riches; for it brings no pleasure, but cares, and envyings, and plottings, and hatred, and false accusations, and ten thousand impediments to virtue, indolence, wantonness, greediness, drunkenness, which make even freemen slaves, nay, worse than slaves bought with money, slaves not to men, but even to the most grievous of the passions, and maladies of the soul. Such a one dares many things displeasing to God and men, dreading lest any should remove from him this dominion. O bitter slavery, and devlish tyranny! For this is the most grievous thing of all, that when entangled in such evils we are pleased and hug our chain, and dwelling in a prison house full of darkness, refuse to come forth to the light, but rivet evil upon ourselves, and rejoice in our malady. So that we cannot be freed, but are in a worse state than those that work the mines, enduring labors and affliction, but not enjoying the fruit. And what is in truth worse than all, if any one desire to free us from this bitter captivity, we do not suffer it, but are even vexed and displeased, being in this respect in no better case than madmen, or rather in a much more miserable state than any such, inasmuch as we are not even willing to be delivered from our madness. What? Was it for this, O man, that you were brought into the world? Was it for this that you were made a man, that you might work in these mines, and gather gold? Not for this did God create you in His Image, but that you might please Him, that you might obtain the things to come, that you might join the choir of Angels. Why now do you banish yourself from such a relationship, and thrust yourself into the extreme of dishonor and meanness? He who came by the same birth pangs with you, (the spiritual birth pangs I mean,) is perishing with hunger, and you are bursting with fullness: your brother goes about with naked body, but you provide garments even for your garments, heaping up all this clothing for the worms. How much better would it have been to put them on the bodies of the poor; so would they have remained undestroyed, would have freed you from all care, and have won for you the life to come. If you will not have them to be moth-eaten, give them to the poor, these are they who know how to shake these garments well. The Body of Christ is more precious and more secure than the coffer, for not only does It keep the garments safe, not only does It preserve them unconsumed, but even renders them brighter. Oftentimes the coffer taken with the garments causes you the utmost loss, but this place of safety not even death can harm. With It we need neither doors nor bolts, nor wakeful servants, nor any other such security, for our possessions are free from all treacherous attacks, and are laid up under guard, as we may suppose things laid up in heaven would be; for to all wickedness that place is inaccessible. These things we cease not continually to say to you, and you hearing are not persuaded. The reason is, that we are of a soul which is mean, gaping upon the earth, groveling on the ground. Or rather, God forbid that I should condemn you all of wickedness, as though all were incurably diseased. For even if those who are drunk with riches stop their ears against my words, yet they who live in poverty will be able to look clearly to what I say. But what, says some one, has this to do with the poor? For they have no gold, or any such garments. No, but they have bread and cold water, but they have two obols, and feet to visit the sick, but they have a tongue and speech to comfort the bedridden, but they have house and shelter to make the stranger their inmate. We demand not from the poor such and such a number of talents of gold, these we ask from the rich. But if a man be poor, and come to the doors of others, our Lord is not ashamed to receive even an obol, but will say that He has received more from the giver, than from those who cast in much. How many of those who now stand here would desire to have been born at that time, when Christ went about the earth in the flesh, to have conversed and sat at meat with Him? Lo, this may be done now, we may invite Him more than then to a meal, and feast with Him, and that to greater profit. For of those who then feasted with Him many even perished, as Judas and others like him; but every one of those who invite Him to their houses now, and share with Him table and roof, shall enjoy a great blessing. Come, it says, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in; sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came unto Me. Matthew 25:34-36 That then we may hear these words, let us clothe the naked, let us bring in the stranger, feed the hungry, give the thirsty drink, let us visit the sick, and look upon him that is in prison, that we may have boldness and obtain remission of our sins, and share those good things which transcend both speech and thought. Which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the might forever. Amen.
Source. Translated by Charles Marriott. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.