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Thoughts from the
Early Church
Friday of the Lord’s Passion
(Good Friday)
March 30, 2018

Commentary by Peter Chrysologus
The account of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” But what do the sheep gain from the death of their shepherd? We can see from Christ's own death that it leaves the beloved flock a prey to wild beasts, exposed to depredation and slaughter, as indeed the apostles experienced after Jesus had laid down his life for his sheep, consenting to his own murder, and they found themselves uprooted and scattered abroad. The same story is told by the blood of martyrs shed throughout the world, the bodies of Christians thrown to wild beasts, burnt at the stake or flung into rivers: all this suffering was brought about by the death of their shepherd, and his life could have prevented it.

It is by dying that your shepherd proves his love for you.
But it is by dying that your shepherd proves his love for you. When danger threatens his sheep and he sees himself unable to protect them, he chooses to die rather than to see calamity overtake his flock. What am I saying? Could Life himself die unless he chose to? Could anyone take life from its author against his will? He himself declared: “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again; no one takes it from me.” To die, therefore, was his own choice; immortal though he was, he allowed himself to be put to death. 

By allowing himself to be taken captive, he overpowered his opponent; by submitting he overcame him; by his own execution he penalized his enemy, and by dying he opened the door to the conquest of death for his whole flock. And so the Good Shepherd lost none of his sheep when he laid down his life for them; he did not desert them, but kept them safe; he did not abandon them but called them to follow him, leading them by the way of death through the lowlands of this passing world to the pastures of life.

Listen to the shepherd's words: “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” Those who have followed him to death will inevitably also follow him to life; his companions in shame will be his companions in honor, just as those who have shared his suffering will share his glory. “Where I am,” he says, “there shall my servant be also.” And where is that? Surely in heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Do not be troubled, then, because you must live by faith, nor grow weary because hope is deferred. Your reward is certain; it is preserved for you in him who created all things. “You are dead,” Scripture says, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, you too will appear with him in glory.” What was concealed from the farmer at seedtime he will see as he gathers in the sheaves, and the man who plows in sorrow will harvest his crop in gladness.

Sermon 40: PL 52, 313-314)

Peter Chrysologus (c.400-450), who was born at Imola in Italy, became bishop of Ravenna. He was highly esteemed by the Empress Galla Placidia, in whose presence he preached his first sermon as bishop. He was above all a pastor, and many of his sermons have been preserved.

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Edith Barnecut, OSB. was a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year C, pp. 44-45.
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Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
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