The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Cornelius a Lapide On John 10:11-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 15, 2010

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Joh 10:11  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep

I am the good Shepherd, &c. I, the one only Prince of Shepherds, who will lay down My life for My sheep, to redeem them by My death from death, and confer on them both present and eternal life. Neither prophets, nor apostles, nor any one else could do this. For though they were slain for the sake of the faithful, yet they did not redeem them, sanctify, or beatify them. So Rupertus, Chrysostom, &c. S. Augustine adds that the prophets and apostles are counted as one and the same shepherd with Christ, as being under Him, sent also and guided and protected by Him. Christ therefore is that special and singular Pastor foretold by Ezekiel 34:23. (See notes in loc.)

Christ passes from the parable of the door to the more striking parable of the Shepherd. He is the door by which the sheep enter, and also the Shepherd of the sheep: that is not any ordinary one, but the chief, special, and Divine Shepherd. And He enters through the door, that is, by Himself and His own authority.

Besides this Christ rejoices in the title of Shepherd, as being most appropriate and most sweet. He used to be thus represented in very ancient pictures, at Rome, as carrying a sheep on His shoulders. Many of the patriarchs, who were types and ancestors of Christ, were shepherds, learning thereby (says Philo) to be shepherds of men, &c. “If therefore thou wishest to know and to discharge the office of a true Pastor, see how a shepherd treats his sheep. Be so eminent in doctrine and sanctity among thy faithful ones, as to appear like a rational pastor among the irrational sheep, and as an angel among men.” (S. Chrysostom) He attends to his sheep one by one; let him lead them into richer pastures. He goes before them by his virtuous example, as S. Paul exhorts Titus (Tit_2:7). As a parish priest he drives away all heretics and hurtful persons. And let him feed his flock with sound doctrines and sacraments, and not fatten himself on the milk of his flock (Ezek. xxxiv. 2). Let him not be mercenary, seeking his own profit, paying court to the well-to-do and noble, and despising the rustics and mean of his flock. For Christ went about villages and towns, preaching the Gospel to the poor (Matt.xi.). Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was a noble example of this; he refused to exchange his poor bishoprick for a wealthier one, saying that he could render a better account at the day of judgment for his few sheep and small gains than he could for greater ones. For he said, “If men did but know how exact an account would be required, they would not seek to obtain great and wealthy bishoprics.” (Sanders in Schism. Angl.) A good shepherd tenderly feeds and fosters the lambs and delicate ones of his flock (see Ezek. xxxiv. 4). And so does a parish priest and a bishop. (See the life of S. Abraham written by S. Ephrem.) He came from being an anchoret to be the pastor of a wild and barbarous people, and though cruelly entreated by them, brought them by his indomitable patience, gentleness, and charity, to submit to the laws of Christ.

Jacob, like a true shepherd, watched over his flock by day and night (Gen_31:40); and shepherds were watching over their flocks by night when Christ was born. So too should a parish priest or a bishop vigilantly watch over his flock, as his first duty. A shepherd risks his own life in guarding his sheep. So should a parish priest, when persecution or pestilence threatens; as did SS. Athanasius, Chrysostom, Basil, Ambrose. Lastly, S. Peter, the chief pastor of the Church, lays down notes for the pastors under him (1Pe_5:2). See also S. Gregory (in Pastorali), S. Bernard (de Consider. ad Eugenium), and S. Augustine (Tract de Pastoribus et Ovibus).

All these duties are summed up in charity, for charity supremely loves God, and for His sake the faithful committed to its care by God. (See also chap. xxi. 15.)

The good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep. This does not relate so much to the parable itself, as to that which is signified by it. For the natural Shepherd ought to count his own life of greater value than the lives of his sheep. And yet he ought to protect his sheep even at the risk of his life. But the shepherd of souls is bound, by his duty, to expose his bodily life to danger, for the spiritual life of the faithful committed to his charge. And hence he is bound to stand by them in the time of the plague, or provide some other qualified person to administer the sacraments to the sick, as did S. Charles Borromeo: and for this reason was canonised. And so also all the apostles, excepting S. John, suffered martyrdom for the sake of the faithful committed to their care. And so also nearly all the Roman Pontiffs down to S. Sylvester. But the leader of them all was Christ, who alone, as the best of Shepherds, laid down His life as a ransom, while all the others did so merely to manifest their faith, and as a pattern of virtue.

Joh 10:12  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

But he that is an hireling, &c. An hireling seeks not the good of the sheep but merely his own profit. “Hirelings are they,” says S. Augustine, “who seek their own things, and not the things of Christ and of the sheep.” So too S. Basil. But the apostles, though they fed not their own sheep, but the sheep of Christ, were not hirelings, because they sought not their own temporal gain, but the spiritual and eternal gain of the faithful. “He is called a hireling, and not a shepherd,” says S. Gregory (Hom. xiv.), “who feeds the Lord’s sheep, not from deepest love, but for worldly gain. The hireling is he who holds the post of a shepherd, but seeks not to gain souls; is eager for earthly advantages, rejoices in the honour of the prelacy, feeds on temporal gains, delights in the reverence paid to him by men.”

Seeth the wolf coming. “For in a time of tranquillity,” says S. Gregory, “very often the hireling, as well as the true shepherd, stands on guard over the flock. But the approach of the wolf shows the temper of mind with which they did so. The wolf attacks the sheep when the violent and the spoiler oppress those who are faithful and humble. But he who seemed to be a shepherd and was not, leaves the sheep and runs away, because through fear for himself he does not venture to withstand his injustice.”

Fleeth: “Not by change of place,” says S. Gregory, “but by withdrawing support. He flies, because he saw injustice and held his peace: he flies, because he conceals himself by silence. To whom the prophet well says, “Ye have not gone up against him, nor raised up a wall for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord” (Eze_13:5).

And the wolf catcheth them, i.e. A heretic, or any wicked man, who strives to pervert the faithful by word or example, or (as S. Gregory says) “the devil, who seizes them when he draws away this man to luxury, inflames another with avarice, puffs up another with pride, parts asunder others through anger, stimulates another with envy, supplants another by deceit. The devil therefore scatters the flock when he kills the faithful by temptations. But the hireling is not inflamed by zeal against such attacks, is not enkindled by any warmth of love. Because by looking after mere outward advantages, he carelessly takes no account of the inward injury which is done to the flock.”

And hence, Christ leaves it to be gathered by contrast that the good shepherd when he sees the wolf coming neither flies nor forsakes his sheep, but stands firm and fights for them even to death, and in this way lays down his life for them. But when it is allowable for a pastor to fly when persecuted, and when not, see notes on S. Mat_10:23. Also S. Augustine (Epis. clxxx. ad Honoratum). I use on this matter the words of S. Gregory the more freely, because he had full experience of those things in his own person.

Joh 10:13  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. As though it were said directly, he who loves not the sheep, but worldly gain, cannot stand firm when the sheep are in danger. For while he is aiming at honour, and rejoicing in worldly gain, he is afraid of exposing himself to danger, lest he should lose that which he loves. For no one takes such diligent care for that which is another’s as he does for his own. And therefore the hireling cares more for his own life than for the sheep which are not his; and flies when the wolf comes, as caring more for his own life than for the sheep.

Joh 10:14  I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep. Christ knows His sheep not merely with the watchful and tender eyes of His Godhead (as 8. Cyril says), but also with the eyes of His manhood (for it is as man that He is the Pastor of His Church). He knows who are His faithful ones, what are their gifts, and also what are their weaknesses, that He may increase the one, and heal the other. He knows them therefore not merely speculatively, but practically, and heaps on them all His gifts, benefits, and graces.

And am known of Mine, with the eyes of faith, hope, and charity, because they believe in Me, hope in Me, and love Me above all things. “Because I love them, they love Me in return, for love is the loadstone of love: if thou wishest to be loved, thou thyself must love. Love is the powerful allurement of love.” So Theophylact. And besides this His love of us, He inspires in us love for Him in return. And this love is our highest good, leading us to heaven and making us blessed.

Joh 10:15  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

As the Father knoweth Me, &c. By this comparison Christ points out both the origin and also the greatness of the love which He bestows on His sheep. The boundless knowledge and love which exists between the Father and Myself, is the source of the love which exists between Myself and My faithful ones. Both because divine and uncreated love is the source of all human and created love; and also because it is the Father’s will that I should love My faithful ones with great and special love, as He loves Me, and I love Him with boundless affection; for He wishes to adopt My faithful ones through Me who am His Son by nature, and He therefore loves them supremely as His children. And I do the same, because I submit in all things to the love and will of the Father; nay more, My love is the same as the Father’s, as our will, our nature, and our Godhead is the same.

But here note the word “as” signifies similarity, not equality. For the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father with uncreated, and therefore infinite love. But the Son, as man, loves His own with a created and finite love, and is loved with a like love by them in return. But there will be here also a kind of equality, if with Maldonatus you explain it thus: “When Christ says, I know My sheep, He speaks as God; but when He says, The Father knoweth Me, and I know My Father, He speaks of Himself as man. For just as Christ (as God) knows His sheep, and His sheep as men know Him in return; so the Father, as God, knows the Son as man, and the Son, as man, acknowledges His Father, and calls Him Father, as we do ourselves. ‘I ascend to My Father, and your Father'” (Joh_20:17).

And I lay down My life for My sheep. This refers back to verse 14. “I know My sheep,” I love them, i.e., most ardently, and therefore I lay down, i.e., I will shortly lay down, My life for them. He put in the words, “as the Father knoweth Me,” to represent the source and the intensity of His love for His people, by His love for the Father, for it was this love which urged Him to lay down His life for His sheep. But the words “I lay down” signify that the death of Christ was not compulsory, but voluntary, self-chosen, and even loved for their salvation. So Leontius. And Christ thus expresses Himself below (ver. 18). “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” And the words also signify, “I lay it down for a time, in order to take it again.” The death of Christ therefore was not so much a death as the placing His soul for three days in Limbus.

Joh 10:16  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

And other sheep I have, &c. Other sheep, i.e., those who will be My sheep. This is spoken by anticipation. He means the Gentiles, and thus predicts their call and conversion, to show that He was to be the King and Shepherd of all nations, just as up to this time He had been of the Jews: and that, consequently, He did not care (comparatively) whether the Jews (few as they were in number) would be unbelieving and rebellious, since He was about to put countless Gentiles in their place. So Rupertus, who adds, “and they will hear My voice,” striking quietly at the Jews.

And there will be one fold, and one shepherd. Some suppose that in the end of the world, God will convert all the Jews by Elias, and all the Gentiles by Enoch, and thus there will become one Church, made up of them both, and one Pastor, Christ, and His Vicar the Supreme Pontiff, who will be called the Angelic Pastor. (See the list of hopes, described symbolically, in the life of S. Malachi.) But they are in error. For neither will Elias convert all the Jews, nor Enoch all the Gentiles. For there will be then many unbelievers and followers of antichrist. But this is far from being the meaning of Christ. It was, that after His death and resurrection His apostles would be dispersed among all nations, and convert them, so that both Jews and Gentiles would be gathered into one Church of believers, under one Shepherd, Christ, and His Vicar, the Roman Pontiff. This is not to be looked forward to as something future, for it took place in the time of Constantine the first Christian emperor, who christianised nearly all the nations which were subject to him. The Apostle graphically sets this before us (Eph.2)

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2 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide On John 10:11-16”

  1. […] Cornelius a Lapide on John 10:11-16.  From the famed 17th century Jesuit. […]

  2. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 10:11-16. […]

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