Do you love me?

Daily Reading for April 18 • The Third Sunday of Easter

For what else do the words “Do you love me? Feed my sheep” mean than if it were said, If you love me, do not think of feeding yourself but feed my sheep as mine and not as your own. Seek my glory in them, and not your own; my dominion, and not yours; my gain, and not yours. Otherwise, you might be found in the fellowship of those who belong to the perilous times, lovers of their own selves, and all else that is joined on to this beginning of evils. . . .

With great propriety, therefore, Peter is asked, “Do you love me?” and he is found replying, “I love you.” And then the command to “Feed my lambs” is applied to Peter, not only once but also a second and a third time, which also demonstrates here that love and liking are one and the same thing. For the Lord, in the last question, did not say “Diligis me,” [as he had the first two times] but, “Amas me?” Let us, then, love not ourselves, but him.

And in feeding his sheep, let us be seeking the things which are his, not the things which are our own. For in some inexplicable way that I cannot understand, everyone who loves himself, and not God, does not love himself. And whoever loves God, and not himself, that is the person who loves himself. For whoever cannot live by himself will certainly die by loving himself. The person, therefore, who loves himself while losing his own life does not really love himself. But when Christ, who preserves life, is loved, a person who does not love himself ends up loving all the more when he does not love himself for this reason, namely, that he may love Christ by whom he lives.

From Tractates on the Gospel of John by Augustine, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IVb, John 11-21, edited by Joel C. Elowsky (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007).

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