Fourth Sunday of Easter (c)

In our Gospel today, Jesus makes a very interesting point about sheep and their relationship to the shepherd. He says that the sheep follow the shepherd because “they recognize his voice.” On the contrary, they will not follow a stranger, and in fact will run away from him, because “they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” The implication here is that sheep become habituated to the presence of a particular shepherd and the sound of his voice, and so come to trust him. They easily follow the shepherd because he is familiar to them and gives them a sense of security[1].

Of all the voices in our lives, the one that should be most familiar to us is precisely the voice of the Good Shepherd. After all, it is God who first spoke a word of love to us when he called us into existence. And he is continually speaking to us in the depths of our hearts where he makes his home when we are in the state of grace.

Unfortunately, there are many obstacles that prevent us from hearing the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd and following him where he would lead us. First of all, our lives can be filled with a tremendous amount of noise. By noise here, I mean frenetic activity, a preoccupation with work that leaves no room for restful silence and meditation. The noise that blocks out the voice of the Good Shepherd could be an addiction to television, music, talk radio, internet surfing…It is very difficult for us to perceive the voice of the Good Shepherd in the midst of such noise.  Learning to turn off media is essential to hearing the voice that is speaking to us in the depths of our hearts.

Another voice that we can become accustomed to is the voice of popular opinion—wanting other people’s approval or being afraid of incurring their scorn. This voice also leads us astray from the path of inner peace because we’re trying to find security in other’s opinion.  The voice of “what other people think” can prevent us from doing something we should or encourage us to do something we shouldn’t, all for the sake of fleeting approval. The end result is always the same—anxiety and the loss of true self-identity. Only the voice of the Good Shepherd reveals to us our true selves and frees us from the vagaries of public opinion.

So how do we prevent these other voices from having sway over us? Well, the answer lies in re-habituating ourselves to the clear, gentle and assuring voice of the Good Shepherd who speaks to us in manifold ways. His voice is heard through his living word in the Scriptures. His voice is heard in the guidance offered by the Magisterium, especially in the voice of his holiness Benedict XVI. His voice is heard in the sacraments which communicate his life to us, particularly the Holy Eucharist and penance. His voice is heard in the silence of our hearts when we make time to hear it and put away all that might distract us.

The more attentive we are to this voice, the more familiar it becomes to us, the more these other voices will be shown for what they are—the voice of strangers. Automatically, we will reject them, run away from them, for we will recognize that they lead to death, not life. The voice of the Good Shepherd, and his alone, can guide us to the life and happiness we so desire.

As we contemplate Jesus the Good Shepherd today Pope John Paul II declared the fourth Sunday of Easter a Day of Prayer for Vocations. We pray that many may listen to the voice of Jesus as he calls, that they may enter the sheepfold through him and be safe and have life and live it to the fullest ■

[1] Sunday 25th April, 2010, 4th Sunday of Easter. Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52. We are his people, the sheep of his flock—Ps 99(100):1-3, 5. Apocalypse 7:9, 14-17. John 10:27-30.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris