Gospel of Vigil of Saints Peter and Paul

John 21:15-19

At that time, Jesus said to Simon Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith to Him: Yea Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed My lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me? He saith to Him, Yea Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed My lambs. He saith to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved, because He had said to him the third time: Lovest thou Me? And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him: Feed My sheep. Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. And this He said, signifying by what death he should glorify God.

Haydock

Verse 15. Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? That is, more than any one of these love me. Christ puts this question thrice to S. Peter, that this triple protestation of love, says S. Aug. might correspond to his triple denial. S. Peter did not answer that he loved him more than the rest did, which he could not know, but modestly said: yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee: and the third time, thou knowest all things, and the hearts of all men, thou knowest how much I love thee. At each protestation, Jesus answered, feed my lambs; and the third time, feed my sheep. To feed, in the style of the Scriptures, is to guide, rule, and govern. S. Ambrose and some others take notice, as if by the lambs, might be understood the people, and by the sheep, those placed over them, as bishops, priests, &c. but others make no such difference in this place, betwixt lambs and sheep, only as comprehending all the members of Christ’s Church, of what condition soever, even the rest of the apostles. For here it was that Christ gave to S. Peter that power which he had promised him, (Matt. xvi. 18.) that is, He now made S. Peter head[1] of his whole Church, as he had insinuated at the first meeting, when S. Andrew brought him to our Saviour, when he changed his name from Simon to Peter: again, when he chose him, and made him the first of his twelve apostles; but particularly, when he said, thou art Peter, (a rock) and upon this rock will I build my Church, &c. Upon this account the Catholic Church, from the very first ages, hath always reverenced, and acknowledged the supreme power of the successors of S. Peter, in spirituals, over all Christian Churches. This appears also by the writings of Tertullian, of S. Irenæus, of S. Cyprian, of the greatest doctors and bishops, both of the west and east, of S. Jerom, S. Augustin, of S. Chrysostom, in several places, of the first general Councils, particularly of the great Council of Chalcedon, &c. Wi. — Simon (son) of John. The father’s name is here added, to discriminate him from Simon Thaddeus, that every one might know that the chief care of the universal Church was not given to any other apostle but Peter. This Simon of John is the same as Simon Bar-jona. See Matt. xvi. 17. Menochius. — S. Peter had three times renounced his master; and Jesus, to give him an opportunity of repairing his fault by a triple confession, three several times demanded of him, if he loved him more than these? That, as S. Augustin remarks, he who had thrice denied through fear might thrice confess through love. Calmet.

Verse 16-17. The lambs and the sheep of our Saviour here mean the faithful, who compose his Church, without any distinction of Jew or Gentile. S. Peter, by these words, is appointed to take charge of the whole flock, as being the chief and prince of the apostles. He is, in some manner, the pastor, not of the sheep only, but of the pastors themselves. They have each their own flock to look after; but to him is committed the care of all; he alone is the pastor of all. Calmet. — Feed my sheep. Our Lord had promised the spiritual supremacy to S. Peter; (S. Matt. xvi. 19.) and here he fulfils that promise, by charging him with the superintendency of all his sheep, without exception; and consequently of his whole flock, that is, of his whole Church. Ch.

Verse 18. Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands … signifying by what death he should glorify God; that is, that a cross should be the instrument of his death and martyrdom. — Whither thou wouldst not: which is no more than to say, that a violent death is against the natural inclination of any man, even though he be ever so willing, and disposed to undergo it. Wi. — By this is meant the martyrdom of S. Peter, which took place thirty-four years after this. He was first cast into prison, and then led out to punishment as Christ had foretold him. He stretched out his arms to be chained, and again he stretched them out, when he was crucified; for he died on the cross, as the ancients assure us. Calmet.

Denzinger

246: The Unity of the Church

PELAGIUS II 579-590
From epistle "Quod ad dilectionern"
to the schismatic bishops of Istria,
about 585

(For) you know that the Lord proclaims in the Gospel: Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I have asked the Father for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren [Luke 22:31 f.].

Consider, most dear ones, that the Truth could not have lied, nor will the faith of PETER be able to be shaken or changed forever. For although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies that He Himself asked for PETER alone and wished the others to be confirmed by him; and to him also, in consideration of a greater love which he showed the Lord before the rest, was committed the care of feeding the sheep [cf. John 21:15 ff.]; and to him also He handed over the keys of the kin gdom of heaven,and upon him He promised to build his Church,and He testified that the gates of hell would not prevail against it [cf. Matt. 16:16 ff.]. But, because the enemy of the human race even until the end of the world does not abstain from sowing cockle [Matt. 13:25] over the good seed in the Church of the Lord, and therefore, lest perchance anyone with malignant zeal should by the instigation of the devil presume to make some alterations in and to draw conclusions regarding the integrity of the faith- and (lest) by reason of this your minds perhaps may seem to be disturbed, we have judged it necessary through our present epistle to exhort with tears that you should return to the heart of your mother the Church, and to send you satisfaction with regard to the integrity of faith. . . .

[The faith of the Synods of NICEA, CONSTANTINOPLE I, EPHESUS I,and especially of CHALCEDON, and likewise of the dogmatic epistle of LEO to Flavian having been confirmed, he proceeds thus:]

If anyone, however, either suggests or believes or presumes to teach contrary to this faith, let him know that he is condemned and also anathematized according to the opinion of the same Fathers.… Consider (therefore) the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church, cannot have the Lord [Gal. 3:7].…

525: Errors of Eckart

JOHN XXII 1316-1334
Examined and condenined in
the edict "In agro dominico,"
Mar. 27, 1329

(25) When it is said: “Simon, do you love me more than these?” [John 21:15 f.], the sense is: That is, more than those and indeed well but not perfectly. For in the first and the second and more and less there is both a degree and a rank; in oneness, however, there is no degree nor rank. Therefore, he who loves God more than his neighbor, (loves) indeed well but not yet perfectly.

1822: Against heretics and schismatics

Vatican Council I
SESSION IV (July 18, 1870)
Dogmatic Constitution I
on the Church of Christ

So we teach and declare that according to the testimonies of the Gospel the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church of God was promised and was conferred immediately and directly upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For the one Simon, to whom He had before said: “Thou shalt be called Cephas” [John 1:42], after he had given forth his confession with those words: “Thou art Christ, Son of the living God” [Matt. 16:16], the Lord spoke with these solemn words: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I shall give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” [Matt. 16:17 ff.]. [against Richerius etc. (see n. 1503)]. And upon Simon Peter alone Jesus after His resurrection conferred the jurisdiction of the highest pastor and rector over his entire fold, saying: “Feed my lambs,” “Feed my sheep” [ John 21:15 ff.]. To this teaching of Sacred Scriptures, so manifest as it has been always understood by the Catholic Church, are opposed openly the vicious opinions of those who perversely deny that the form of government in His Church was established by Christ the Lord; that to Peter alone, before the other apostles, whether individually or all together, was confided the true and proper primacy of jurisdiction by Christ; or, of those who affirm that the same primacy was not immediately and directly bestowed upon the blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church, and through this Church upon him as the minister of the Church herself.

1823: Canon Against heretics and schismatics

Vatican Council I
SESSION IV (July 18, 1870)
Dogmatic Constitution I
on the Church of Christ

If anyone then says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole militant Church, or, that the same received great honor but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: let him be anathema.

1842: The Liberty of the Church

From the Encyclical, "Quod nunquam,"
to the bishops of Prussia,
February 5, 1875

We intend to fulfill parts of Our duty through this letter, announcing to all to whom this matter pertains, and to the whole Catholic world, that those laws are invalid, namely, which are utterly opposed to the constitution of the divine Church. For, the Lord of holy things did not place the powerful of this world over the bishops in these matters which pertain to the holy ministry, but blessed Peter to whom he commended not only His lambs but also His sheep to be fed [cf. John 21:16, 17]; and so by no worldly power, however elevated, can they be deprived of their episcopal office “whom the Holy Ghost hath placed as bishops to rule the Church of God” [cf. Acts 20:28]. Moreover, let those who are hostile to you know that in refusing to pay to Caesar what belongs to God, you are not going to bring any injury to royal authority, nor to detract anything from it; for it is written: “We ought to obey God, rather than men” [Acts 5:29]; and at the same time let them know that everyone of you is prepared to give tribute and obedience to Caesar, not for wrath, but for conscience [cf. Rom. 13:5 f.] in those matters which are under civil authority and power.

468: The Unity and Power of the Church

BONIFACE VIII 1294-1303
From the Bull "Unam Sanctam"
November 18, 1302

With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation nor remission of sin, the Spouse in the Canticle proclaiming: “One is my dove, my perfect one. One she is of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her” [Song. 6:8]; which represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, of Christ indeed, as God. And in this, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” [Eph. 4:5]. Certainly Noah had one ark at the time of the flood, prefiguring one Church which perfect on one cubit had one ruler and guide, namely Noah outside which we read all living things on the earth were destroyed. Moreover this we venerate and this alone, the Lord in the prophet saying: “Deliver, 0 God, my soul from the sword; my only one from the hand of the dog” [Ps. 21:21]. For in behalf of the soul, that is, in behalf of himself, the head itself and the body he prayed at the same time, which body he called the “Only one” namely, the Church, because of the unity of the spouse, the faith, the sacraments, and the charity of the Church. This is that “seamless tunic” of the Lord [John 19:23], which was not cut, but came forth by chance. Therefore, of the one and only Church (there is) one body, one head, not two heads as a monster, namely, Christ and Peter, the Vicar of Christ and the successor of Peter, the Lord Himself saying to Peter: “Feed my sheep” [John 21:17]. He said “My,” and generally, not individually these or those, through which it is understood that He entrusted all to him. If, therefore, the Greeks or others say that they were not entrusted to Peter and his successors, of necessity let them confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ, since the Lord says in John, “to be one flock and one Shepherd” [John 10:16].

717: Appeal to the General Council

PIUS II 1458-1464
From the Bull "Exsecrabilis,"
Jan. 18; in the ancient Roman opinion 1459;
that of today 1460

The execrable and hitherto unheard of abuse has grown up in our day, that certain persons, imbued with the spirit of rebellion, and not from a desire to secure a better judgment, but to escape the punishment of some offense which they have committed, presume to appeal to a future council from the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Jesus Christ, to whom in the person of the blessed PETER was said: “Feed my sheep” [John 21:17], and, “Whatever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven” [Matt. 16:19].… Wishing therefore to expel this pestiferous poison far from the Church of Christ and to care for the salvation of the flock entrusted to us, and to remove every cause of offense from the fold of our Savior… we condemn all such appeals and disprove them as erroneous and detestable.

Catena Aurea

15. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

THEOPHYLACT. The dinner being ended, He commits to Peter the superintendence over the sheep of the world, not to the others: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?

AUGUSTINE. Our Lord asked this, knowing it: He knew that Peter not only loved Him, but loved Him more than all the rest.

ALCUIN. He is called Simon, son of John, John being his natural father. But mystically, Simon is obedience, John grace, a name well befitting him who was so obedient to God’s grace, that he loved our Lord more ardently than any of the others. Such virtue arising from divine gift, not mere human will.

AUGUSTINE. While our Lord was being condemned to death, he feared, and denied Him. But by His resurrection Christ implanted love in his heart, and drove away fear. Peter denied, because he feared to die: but when our Lord was risen from the dead, and by His death destroyed death, what should he fear? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. On this confession of his love, our Lord commends His sheep to him: He saith unto him, Feed My lambs: as if there were no way of Peter’s shewing his love for Him, but by being a faithful shepherd, under the chief Shepherd.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii. 1) That which most of all attracts the Divine love is care and love for our neighbour. Our Lord passing by the rest, addresses this command to Peter: he being the chief of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, and head of the college. Our Lord remembers no more his sin in denying Him, or brings that as a charge against him, but commits to him at once the superintendence over his brethren. If thou lovest Me, have rule over thy brethren, shew forth that love which thou hast evidenced throughout, and that life which thou saidst thou wouldest lay down for Me, lay down for the sheep.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) Well doth He say to Peter, Lovest thou Me (ἀγαπᾶς diligis), and Peter answer, Amo Te (φελῶ amo), and our Lord replies again, Feed My lambs. Whereby, it appears that amor and dilectio are the same thing: especially as our Lord the third time He speaks does not say, Diligis Me, but Amas Me. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? A third time our Lord asks Peter whether he loves Him. Three confessions are made to answer to the three denials; that the tongue might shew as much love as it had fear, and life gained draw out the voice as much as death threatened.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii) A third time He asks the same question, and gives the same command; to shew of what importance He esteems the superintendence of His own sheep, and how He regards it as the greatest proof of love to Him.

THEOPHYLACT. Thence is taken the custom of threefold confession in baptism.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii) The question asked for the third time disturbed him: Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? He was afraid perhaps of receiving a reproof again for professing to love more than he did. So he appeals to Christ Himself: And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things, i. e. the secrets of the heart, present and to come.

AUGUSTINE. (de Verb. Dom. serm. 50) He was grieved because he was asked so often by Him Who knew what He asked, and gave the answer. He replies therefore from his inmost heart; Thou knowest that I love Thee.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiv) He says no more, He only replies what he knew himself; he knew he loved Him; whether any else loved Him he could not tell, as he could not see into another’s heart: (non occ.). Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep; as if to say, Be it the office of love to feed the Lord’s flock, as it was the resolution of fear to deny the Shepherd.

THEOPHYLACT. There is a difference perhaps between lambs and sheep. The lambs are those just initiated, the sheep are the perfected.

ALCUIN. To feed the sheep is to support the believers in Christ from falling from the faith, to provide earthly sustenance for those under us, to preach and exemplify withal our preaching by our lives, to resist adversaries, to correct wanderers.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii) They who feed Christ’s sheep, as if they were their own, not Christ’s, shew plainly that they love themselves, not Christ; that they are moved by lust of glory, power, gain, not by the love of obeying, ministering, pleasing God. Let us love therefore, not ourselves, but Him, and in feeding His sheep, seek not our own, but the things which are His. For whoso loveth himself, not God, loveth not himself: man that cannot live of himself, must die by loving himself; and he cannot love himself, who loves himself to his own destruction. Whereas when He by Whom we live is loved, we love ourselves the more, because we do not love ourselves; because we do not love ourselves in order that we may love Him by Whom we live.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. Pass.) But unfaithful servants arose, who divided Christ’s flock, and handed down the division to their successors: and you hear them say, Those sheep are mine, what seekest thou with my sheep, I will not let thee come to my sheep. If we call our sheep ours, as they call them theirs, Christ hath lost His sheep.

18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) Our Lord having made Peter declare his love, informs him of his future martyrdom; an intimation to us how we should love: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest. He reminds him of his former life, because, whereas in worldly matters a young man has powers, an old man none; in spiritual things, on the contrary, virtue is brighter, manliness stronger, in old age; age is no hindrance to grace. Peter had all along desired to share Christ’s dangers; so Christ tells him, Be of good cheer; I will fulfil thy desire in such a way, that what thou hast not suffered when young, thou shalt suffer when old: But when thou art old. Whence it appears, that he was then neither a young nor an old man, but in the prime of life.

ORIGEN. (super. Matt.) It is not easy to find any ready to pass at once from this life; and so he says to Peter, When thou art old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii. 5) That is, shalt be crucified. And to come to this end, Another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. First He said what would come to pass, secondly, how it would come to pass. For it was not when crucified, but when about to be crucified, that he was led whither he would not. He wished to be released from the body, and be with Christ; but, if it were possible, he wished to attain to eternal life without the pains of death: to which he went against his will, but conquered by the force of his will, and triumphing over the human feeling, so natural a one, that even old age could not deprive Peter of it. But whatever be the pain of death, it ought to be conquered by the strength of love for Him, Who being our life, voluntarily also underwent death for us. For if there is no pain in death, or very little, the glory of martyrdom would not be great.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxviii) He says, Whither thou wouldest not, with reference to the natural reluctance of the soul to be separated from the body; an instinct implanted by God to prevent men putting an end to themselves. Then raising the subject, the Evangelist says, This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God: not, should die: he expresses himself so, to intimate that to suffer for Christ was the glory of the sufferer. (non occ.). But unless the mind is persuaded that He is very God, the sight of Him can in no way enable us to endure death. Wherefore the death of the saints is certainty of divine glory.

AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxiii) He who denied and loved, died in perfect love for Him, for Whom he had promised to die with wrong haste. It was necessary that Christ should first die for Peter’s salvation, and then Peter die for Christ’s Gospel.

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