Fun fact: St. Augustine’s sermons on First John are our earliest extended work on this book of scripture. Preached in 407 during Easter Week, they focus strongly on the epistle’s main theme of “love” which he unpacks in detail. Here are some examples:
The greater the charity, the less the fear; the less the charity, the greater the fear. (135-6)
You shouldn’t think that you love … your neighbor when you don’t correct him. That isn’t charity but indifference. (112-3)
A wicked person, therefore, can have all these sacraments, but a person cannot be wicked and also have charity. (108)
Unfortunately for modern readers, Augustine spends a significant amount of time confronting the Donatists—a church schism with a strong belief in their people’s own moral purity. While germane to his time, his strong stance seems to undercut the message of brotherly love.
After reading his magisterial Confessions, these sermons felt a little lackluster. Still, they reflect the mind and heart of a brilliant theologian preaching for the benefit of his own people. We are blessed to be able to listen in some 1600 years later.
—Saint Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Trans. Boniface Ramsey (New York: New City Press, 2008)