A homily of St Augustine
[ 354 – 430 A.D. ]
on St John’s Gospel
What does it mean, to be drawn by delight? ‘Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ There is a certain desire of the heart to which the bread of heaven appeals. Moreover, if the poet can say: ‘Everyone is drawn by his delight’, not by necessity but by delight, not by compulsion but by sheer pleasure, then how much more must we say that a man is drawn by Christ, when he delights in truth, in blessedness, in holiness and in eternal life, all of which mean Christ?‘No-one can come to me unless the Father draws him.’ You must not imagine that you are being drawn against your will, for the mind can also be drawn by love. Nor should we be afraid of being taken to task by those who take words too literally and are quite unable to understand divine truths, and who might object to these words of scripture, saying: How can I believe of my own free will. if I am drawn? In reply I say this: It is not enough to be drawn of your own free will, because you can be drawn by delight as well.
Or must we assume that the bodily senses have their delights, while the mind is not allowed to have any? But if the soul has no delights, how can scripture say: ‘The children of men will take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They will feast on the abundance of your house, and you will give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life: in your light we shall see light’?
Show me a lover and he will understand what I am saying. Show me someone who wants something, someone hungry, someone wandering in this wilderness, thirsting and longing for the fountains of his eternal home, show me such a one and he will know what I mean. But if I am talking to someone without any feeling, he will not know what I am talking about.
Offer a handful of grass to a sheep and you draw it after you. Show a boy nuts and he is enticed. He is drawn by the things he is running to take, drawn because he desires, drawn without any physical pressures, drawn simply by the pull on his appetite. If, then, the things that lovers see as the delights and pleasures of earth can draw them, because it is true that ‘everyone is drawn by his delight’, then does not Christ draw when he is revealed to us by the Father? What does the mind desire more eagerly than truth? For what does it have an insatiable appetite, why is it anxious that its taste for judging the truth should be as healthy as possible, unless it is that it may eat and drink wisdom, righteousness, truth and eternal life?
Christ says: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’, but here and now! ‘for they shall be satisfied’, but in the future! I give him the thing he loves. I give him what he hopes for. He will see what he believes in but does not yet see. He will eat what he hungers for and be filled with what he thirsts for. When? At the resurrection of the dead, because I will raise him up at the last day.