Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)

This Sunday Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd. His sheep know his voice. We are His sheep. We know His voice. We know if something we hear is coming from him or from another source. We know this in many ways. First of all, we can tell if He is calling us to do something or not do something through our conscience. We know right from wrong. We don’t have to be moral theologians to know that people who post hurtful things about others on the internet are doing something very wrong. We don’t get our morality from civil law. We don’t judge the merits of something according to whether or not there is a law about it. Our civil laws must flow from our morality. Our morality should not be determined by our civil law. A law may be needed to protect society, but right or wrong is not determined by the law; it is determined by the Voice of God. We also know that whether we are caught or not has nothing to do with whether something is right or wrong. For example, we might be driving in our neighborhood and can see clearly enough that there are no police cars around.  But we don’t speed because there may be children outside playing, or folks crossing the street in the middle of the block. We don’t  want to endanger the life of a little child or another person just because we are in a hurry. Or, there is no law saying that we should look in on the elderly man two houses down who didn’t pick up his paper yesterday, but it is the right thing to do. Right or wrong is determined by conscience, not by law.

Sometimes people will say, “Catholic guilt” when we don’t feel right with something we have done or not done. They act as though the Church is imposing guilt upon them. That is not true.  Conscience is not imposed upon us from outside of us. It is within us. A conscience committed to doing the right thing is itself the Voice of the Good Shepherd. Sure, other voices try to draw us away from that which is right, but we listen to the voice we need to follow. What is imposed upon us from the outside is not guilt, what is imposed upon us is the immorality of a society that calls us to follow it instead of follow the Voice of God.

Our conscience also speak to us by continually asking us, “How well am I living my Christianity?” The Christian lives his or her Christianity throughout daily life, in the home, at the workplace, in the world. You are acting on the voice you hear within you saying, “I have to do something to help out. I am only doing what a Christian must do to be a Christian.”

Sometimes, we have to perk up our ears to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. There are so many distractions in life, that we have to listen closely to hear His voice. That is why we need to make time in our lives for daily prayer. Those prayers we say at night or in the morning every day give us the opportunity to hear His voice and to follow our Shepherd. There are times, though, that we need help discerning the voice of the Lord. Life is complicated.  We often have to ask ourselves, “Is this coming from the Lord or from another source, like my pride or ambition, etc?” Jesus gave us a guide to answer this question.  He said, “Check the fruit”, well  actually he said, By their fruit you will know them. What are the long range results of an action or inaction? Are they good or bad?  We can still be confused though. Sometimes we need to meet with people who may have insight into the best direction we should take in some given situation or other.  So we go to a priest or deacon, or a spiritual director. Maybe ask a question in confession or we make an appointment for a sit down.

In the second part of the Gospel Jesus adds that not only is He the Good Shepherd, He is the Sheep-gate. He is our protection against thieves and marauders who would steal and destroy our souls. The New Testament proclaims that all who stay united to Christ will live forever. It makes no difference what other people attempt to do to us, no matter how they attack us.  They cannot destroy that Life that He has given us, the Life we celebrate particularly at Easter-time. Nothing can destroy His Life. The Sheep Gate protects us from eternal death. We may be in a horrible family situation and be afraid for others and for ourselves, but with the Lord the negativity can become a source of growth as we are determined to find a way to draw closer to the Lord through the negatives of our lives.  Or perhaps, we suffer from some form of psychological problem. We may be in recovery, but are  continually battling the addiction. We don’t fight alone. We fight with the Lord, who protects us from the terrors of life.

Today’s Gospel forces us to ask ourselves, “Whose voice is it that I am following?  Is it the voice of the immoral elements of our society? Is it the voice of the popular but self-absorbed? Or do I follow the voice of the Lord?” As always, we pray today for the courage to be Catholic

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