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470 SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM Homily 88 (John 21.15-25) 'When, therefore, they had breakfasted, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, dost thou love me more than these do?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." '1 There are many virtues which can make us pleasing to God and cause us to appear illustrious and worthy of esteem, but the one that more especially wins favor from on high is loving concern for the welfare of our neighbor, an office which Christ now asked of Peter. When they had finished eating, 'Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, dost thou love me more than these do?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." , Now, why in the world did He pass over the other Apostles, and speak to this one about these matters? He was the chosen one of the Apostles, the mouthpiece of the disciples, and the head of the band. That is why Paul also came, on that later occasion, to make inquiries of him rather than of the others. At the same time, also, Christ entrusted to Peter the primacy over his brethren to show him that in future he must have no fear, because his denial had been completely forgiven. Moreover, He did not bring up the denial at all, or find fault with him for what had happened, but said in effect: 'If you love Me, assume responsibility for your brethren and now show to them the ardent love which you have always displayed towards Me and in which you have gloried. And for the sake of My lambs lay down that life which you used to say you would lay down for Me.' Then, after being questioned about his love for Christ once, and again a second time, when he had called on 1 John 21.15. HOMILIES 471 Christ as a witness who knew the secrets of his heart, he was thereupon questioned a third time also, and so was greatly disturbed. Fearing,a repetition of what had happened before (for, because he was overconfident at that time, he afterwards was overcome), he therefore once more turned to Him for support. By saying: 'Thou knowest all things,' he meant: 'Thou knowest the past and the future.' Do you see how he had become a better and a wiser man, now no longer boasting and contradicting? Indeed, it was for this reason that he was greatly disturbed: 'Lest I think I love you, though in reality I do not, just as I had many boastful thoughts before, and was overconfident, and later was overcome by temptation.' Moreover, three times Christ asked the question and three times gave the same injunction, to show how greatly He esteemed the office of caring for His own lambs, and that to perform this task was most of all a proof of his love for Him. And after speaking to him of his love for Him, Christ foretold to him also the martyrdom that he· was going to suffer, to show him that it was not because He did not trust Peter that He spoke as He did, but on the contrary, because He did trust him very much. Moreover, in the desire to show Peter what would be a proof of his love for Christ and also to instruct us about the way in which we must especially love Him, He therefore said: 'When thou wast young thou didst gird thyself and walk where thou wouldst. But when thou art old, others will gird thee and lead thee where thou wouldst not.' Now, Peter really did wish and desire this, and that is why Christ made this revelation to him. He had said on many occasions: '1 will lay down my life for thee,' and, 'Even if 1 should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee !'2 Therefore Christ granted him what he desired. 2 John 13.37; Matt. 26.35. 472 SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM 'Then, what is the meaning of "where thou wouldst not"?' He was referring to the feelings of our human nature, and the tendency to self-preservation on the part of the flesh, and meant that the soul unwillingly becomes separated from the body. So that, even if the will was strong, the flesh was weak, despite this. No one, indeed, lays his body aside without a struggle, since...


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