John Wycliffe (c.1320-1384) has long been famed for his role in translating the Bible into English in Medieval England. Yet he was also a learned theologian and faithful priest. Faced with an unstable political and social order, a financially and sexually corrupt Church, and the Plague, Wycliffe upheld the ultimate authority of the Word of God and attacked the Church’s many evils.
These pastoral treatises, newly translated into modern English, were originally written in the vernacular, a key means of reaching poorly educated priests who had been hastily ordained to replace those killed off by the Plague. Wycliffe argues that the Church and her ministers must return to their first love: the Lord Jesus.
In calling pastors in his own day to better tend their flocks by preaching the Scriptures, living simply, and working diligently for the good of their parishioners, Wycliffe speaks just as effectively to our time. Wracked by Plague, beset by social and political upheaval, and faced with corruption in our churches, we are more similar to Wycliffe’s audience than we might suppose. Like his original audience, we need Wycliffe’s message: our life in this world is a pilgrimage, and our destination is the celestial city, there to dwell forever with our Lord.