My Sheep Hear My Voice
by Rev. Miserendino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one."
Itís a safe bet that most Catholics in Northern Virginia are not overly familiar with sheep. For most folks in our area, our principal experience of sheep probably comes from either our wool sweaters or references in the Gospels themselves. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we are the sheep of his flock, and so on. We may even be familiar with our very brief Gospel this Sunday, Jn 10:27-30, in which we hear Jesus tell us that his sheep hear his voice and follow him.
Thus, we likely know abstractly that sheep really can pick out the voice of their shepherd, even among the noise and calls of other shepherds or the presence of hundreds of their fluffy compatriots. However, itís another thing entirely to see it in action. For those of us who canít make it to a pasture to try the experiment ourselves, itís worth checking out one of the many YouTube videos demonstrating the heartwarming phenomenon. The sheep really do trust their shepherd and know his voice, and that trust comes from their radical dependence on the shepherd and the care he provides.
In fact, thereís even a famous story told from World War I about some soldiers attempting to steal sheep from a shepherd in Jerusalem. The soldiers were quite literally leading the sheep astray, hoping to make a free meal out of them. The shepherd got wise to it, but what could he do? Outnumbered and out-gunned, he could never overpower the soldiers. So, he did the only thing he could: he called out to his sheep and continued to draw them back to safety. His sheep heard his voice and came bounding back, faster than the soldiers could catch them. The shepherd saved his flock using only the trust of his flock and his call. That speaks powerfully to the role of Jesus and his voice in each of our lives, calling us back from the distractions and pitfalls of the world to the safety of his care.
More striking still is the fact that most shepherds really do know each of their sheep and notice if one goes astray. To most of us, one sheep looks exactly like another. It seems crazy to think a shepherd would notice if one sheep out of a hundred went missing. It would be even more crazy to leave 99 behind to seek out a lost one. And yet, Christ uses this image for a reason: he knows each of us as individuals and cares for each of us with a particular love. God really does know and love you, as an individual. He notices when we stray and never stops seeking us out with a love that transcends mere economics.
A couple questions: How are we doing when it comes to listening to Christís voice? Do we recognize Christ calling outtous,ordoesitgetlostinthenoiseoftheworld?Itmight be good to get a checkup for our spiritual hearing. How so? First, by making time and space for God to speak by creating silence in our day. Godís voice is easiest to hear in silence. We have to cut out the noise, perhaps even with a temporary media or internet fast if needed. Then, we need to train our ears and hearts to where Christ promises to speak. Chief among these is sacred Scripture. When we read Scripture or listen to it, Christ speaks to our heart even if we donít understand the words themselves. Right now, with resources such as ďthe Bible in a YearĒ podcast and other Scripture apps and studies, itís never been easier for a Catholic to tune in to Christís voice in the Scriptures, daily. Itís never too late to start heeding the shepherdís call and to be drawn deeper into his protective care.
Fr. Miserendino is parochial vicar of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield.