+THE SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE 4TH Sunday of Easter, 2023
It is Good Shepherd Sunday and as we just heard from the gospel of John, the sheep hear the voice of the good shepherd and recognize immediately who this is. There is this deep and abiding relationship that goes on between the shepherd who calls the sheep by name so as to lead them out to pasture.
This loving relationship runs through all three of our readings this morning. When Peter stood before the whole house of Israel and told them to “know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ” the Jesus whom they had crucified, he cuts them to the heart so that they may repent of the evil they had done and be filled with the Holy Spirit. He tells of the promise made to them and to their children. Obviously they are touched to the core for three thousand were added that day to the flock of Christ’s followers.
Peter in our second reading urges his readers to be patient when they suffer for doing what is good, for this is the path of the divine grace. He tells them the real meaning of love by keeping their eyes on Christ who “when he was insulted, returned no insult, who when he suffered, did not threaten, instead, he handed himself over,” and bore our sins in his body upon the cross.
Our gospel shows us Jesus as the gate through whom we are saved, through whom we are able to come in and go out so as to find pasture. Belief in Jesus is to realize that he is present so that we may have life and have it ever more abundantly.
When those, like the Pharisees of his time, seek to lead the people out of self-interests, seek to do so for the sake of wealth and power, they do not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climb in another way for they are thieves and robbers. They pretend to guide the flock but only do so to steal, to slaughter and destroy. Sometimes it takes a while for people to see what is really going on but once they discern what is actually motivating these leaders whether in the Church or society, the people turn away from them. A clear example of this is where priests, religious or bishops sexually abused the young or women who sought their instruction and advice.
The true shepherd calls his own sheep by name, knows their true interests and guides them into pastures where they may be richly fed so as to realize their full potential. Jesus is the true gate for he wants nothing more than that we may have life and have it more abundantly.
If we are readers of sacred scripture we see how Jesus walks before us and come to recognize his voice in the circumstances of our everyday lives. He is constantly opening the way before us and to hear his voice is to realize he knows each one of us by name, knows the deepest aspirations of each of our lives. He is ever leading us out into authentic freedom.
Might not the greatest gift we will ever receive in our daily lives be that of recognizing his voice and letting him lead us into the fullness of life he has promised. We already partake of this as we gather around this altar and receive from him his very own Body and Blood which is the life of the world.
Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10