Homilies for Sundays of Easter

May. 9, 2020

"IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR US TO NEGLECT THE WORD OF GOD TO SERVE AT TABLE"

Readings: 1st- Acts 6:1-7; 2nd- 1 Pet. 2:4-9; Gospel- Jn. 14:1-12

There are different types of hunger in life- physical, emotional, and spiritual hunger. The easiest to figure out of the three is physical hunger. We are taught to satisfy our physical needs from birth. After we are born, our moms begin to breastfeed us (let’s use this moment to say HAPPY MOTHERS” DAY to all ladies out there. We love you). We start with drinking milk, then learn to chew and swallow hard food. We are taught to go to the fridge to take snacks, to collect water. We are shown to use microwave or gas to prepare food. We learn to eat noodles, spaghetti, chili, beans, rice, broccoli, chicken afritada, cassava cake, or bim-bop for the Filipinos, pollo, tortilla for the Hispanics or fufu, egusi soup, plantain or yam for Africans. We learn to eat meat -chicken, pork, beef, or pork, and so forth. We identify what it means to be hungry and learn the best ways to satisfy our hunger. 

We are also taught to satisfy our emotional hunger in some sense but not as much as our physical hunger. We are cuddled as babies by our parents and loved ones. We are picked up in the face of danger or threats to our safety. We are comforted when we feel pains. We are inspired, motivated, and encouraged to do things. We are made to realize that we have a strong support system. We are introduced to the right relationships as a youth. We receive orientations on how to maintain self-identity, worth, and esteem. However, satisfying emotional hunger is a bit more difficult than physical hunger. 

To satisfy spiritual hunger is the toughest of the three. The reason is that God is present in an unseen manner. We believe He is everywhere and not limited by space. We believe that he hears us when we speak to him. Sometimes, we hear him and at other times we fail to hear him. We crave explanations of spiritual phenomena beyond human senses which can only be understood within the realm of faith. We believe in the Trinity. We believe in the Angels. We believe in the intercession of the Saints and of the Virgin Mary. We believe in the Blessed Eucharist. We hunger for spiritual food. We live with the continuous search for the satisfaction of our spiritual hunger.

A typical example is the current COVID situation. We seem to be struggling with satisfying the various hungers in us albeit in varying degrees. Is it possible to focus on physical hunger more than the others? Imagine our quickest reactions when we receive warning for impending crises. We default to the physical first. We stock water. We stock toilet papers. We stock drinks. While we have these things, they seem not to bring total satisfaction to our desire for nourishment. Don’t we desire something beyond the physical? The apostles provide us with the answer to our cravings in today’s first reading.

As we read in the Acts of Apostles, after the resurrection of Christ, the number of disciples continues to increase; diversity is becoming an interesting challenge. The Hellenists (Greek-speaking Gentile Christians or Jews who speak only Greek) feel they are marginalized. Like any minority group, they raise their voices against the inequitable distribution of food. They report that their widows are being neglected in the food chain and want the apostles to intervene. The response by the Twelve is this, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2). Therefore, the apostles request the group to select seven reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom to take care of the food distribution. But there’s an important piece here, the apostles want to stay focused on the main mission of feeding souls. They devote themselves to “prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4) while taking appropriate measures to solve the challenge of physical hunger. The apostles neither dismiss their Hellenist colleagues nor do they underrate their request. They provide the needed balance; the physical needs must not suppress the spiritual.

Jesus speaks to his disciples in the gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He speaks to them about his relationship with the Father who is invisibly present in the Son. Identifying ultimate realities is a great way to satisfy spiritual hunger. We must understand that physical satisfaction is good, but it is limited. Jesus is coming back to take us so we can be where he is. But the disciples aren’t sure of what Jesus is saying and so Thomas speaks up, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote in his book, The Divine Romance, “Man is engaged in a threefold quest, for life, truth, and love, and since he cannot find these in their fullness on this earth — because here, life is mingled with death, truth with error, and love with hate — he must go out beyond the "margent of this world," out to Someone who is pure Life, pure Truth, and pure Love, which is God.” Jesus is God’s Word made flesh, the Logos of the Father. He is the ultimate satisfaction that our hearts crave for. 

During this period of the quarantine, it is possible that most of us are craving to satisfy our physical hungers. It is true that we are thinking of ways to regain money lost due to the lockdown. It is true that we want to have our businesses open. We want to do things as before, get to the beach, eat in our favorite restaurants, visit beautiful parks. We want the physical life that we’ve known to get back soon. We are craving for hugs, to smile at friends in real life. Like the Hellenists, we want to satisfy our hunger, physical, and emotional. Perhaps, we are not satisfied with the distribution of things. Our resources are running low. Those are very important human needs. But the disciples remind us not to neglect the word of God. 

When Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” He ushers us into a relationship with the Father, something beyond the physical. He is the way that we have to walk in, the truth that we have to know, and the life that we have to embrace. While we look for physical exits to our current COVID situation, it is important to keep our eyes fixed on God’s word, stay in the truth and embrace the life of Christ. We must feed our children with God’s word. We must feed our families with God’s word. We must inspire them to the sustenance and nourishment which come from Jesus. We must devote ourselves to prayer. 

Diana Deaver who speaks on emotional intelligence talks about the difference between “walking out” and “walking in” which I am going to apply to Jesus’ invitation here. We walk out to satisfy our physical and emotional hunger, but we walk in to satisfy our spiritual needs. We walk out to admire nature. We take fresh air. We go to sports, schools, parks, offices because we want to satisfy the physical and emotional desires. We visit restaurants to satisfy the physical. 

But life is deeper than walking out. We need to walk in, to contemplate the Creator of the beautiful and diverse universe. We need the Holy Spirit and Wisdom of the Father to walk in. We walk in when we read the scriptures. We walk in when we meditate on the sacrifice of the Cross reenacted in the celebration of the Eucharist. We walk in when we kneel down in prayers thanking the Father for his love and mercy. We walk in when we live in faith and hope thereby able to understand that challenges and sufferings can only last for a while, that joy comes forth in the morning. When we walk in, we can do greater works than our physical senses and cognitive abilities lead us. As Saint Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). We walk in when we follow Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life.

As we plan to step out of the quarantine in any way that the government and the church have designed it, let’s “walk-in” with Jesus. Faith is all we need. Faith helps us to connect with God and to connect with others in their needs- the hungry, lonely, poor, and victims of social injustice. Faith helps us to identify with isolated widows of our own “Hellenist” community. Faith helps us to empathize with the weak. Faith enables us to attend to our physical needs in a way that does not denigrate spiritual hunger. Serving at table is important but we must not neglect the word of God in our search for the physical. 

 

 

Apr. 25, 2020

Readings: 1st- Acts 2:14, 22-33; 2nd- 1 Pet. 1:17-21; Gospel- Lk. 24:13-35

“STAY WITH US… for it is nearly evening?”

Peter and the eleven disciples stepped out boldly to proclaim the good news of the resurrection. They became emboldened by the Spirit at Pentecost and told of the mighty deeds, wonders, and great signs that Jesus did. The Holy Spirit will always bring a sense of joy and lightness, never oppression. The Holy Spirit never feels heavy which is a hallmark of divine presence in our lives. Think about the situation of the disciples; that doesn’t mean that a particular circumstance isn’t difficult, stressful, or even fearful. But as Christians, doing God’s will comes with a wave of interior peace and calm. For that reason, Peter, who was fearfully hiding in the upper room championed a bold proclamation of the good news. Peter reminded the audience of what David spoke in the Old Testament about the resurrection and how he appealed to God saying, “because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.” Through suffering, the disciples bear witness to this messiah as they strongly affirm, “God raised this Jesus, of this, we are all witnesses.”  

After the resurrection, Christ appeared to different people in ways that they couldn’t recognize him. We see a story of such appearance in today’s gospel as the two disciples move to Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem. These two disciples are not in a positive mood -frustrated, downcast, anxious. My thought is that these disciples of Jesus were truly traumatized. They had to be beyond downcast. Imagine what they experienced? They were leaving Jerusalem, heading away from their community and social connection. They must have been experiencing some PTSD which made them start talking uncontrollably to Jesus once he got into their midst. They didn’t know it was him, yet they needed to talk, just talk. They share the story of the horrific killing of their master. 

An interesting turn in the story is that Jesus pretends to be unaware of the happenings and ask for more of their stories. One of my favorite lines here is the phrase from Jesus, “What sort of things?” Does Jesus not know the innermost thoughts of our hearts, so why ask what sort of things they are discussing? He knows but He wants us to tell Him, talk to Him. We have to be able to tell God What sort of things we are facing today. Can God ever be ignorant? No, Christ is patient enough to listen to us even when it is the story of how humanity murdered him. He listens. 

In the case of these disciples, their expectations are lost, their hopes dashed since the promised messiah has been murdered. They are so traumatized. They hear different versions of the post-resurrection drama. The story of the women who went to the tomb and came back to narrate that they saw angels who informed them that he has risen as well as the account of some of their members. To these disciples, these stories don’t connect. So, what’s next? They leave Jerusalem for Emmaus -to reboot their former lives. They give up! Emmaus represents hopelessness.

Jesus does two things here: first, he listens to them. He lets them speak their minds. He wants those disciples to narrate their stories. They express their feelings. Then He begins to teach them. Jesus catechizes them. He uses Scriptures to educate them, to explain the meaning of his messianic mission. His death wasn’t the end, rather it was the evening of a new dawn in the lives of believers. His Kingdom can only be established on the Cross. Christ reminds them that suffering does not mean the end of life. 

One significant thing that happened in this encounter is the breaking of the bread. As Jesus stayed with the disciples, he took bread and said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them. This was the climax of what could be described as the Emmaus movie, and like the experience of Peter, James, and John on the mountain of transfiguration, their eyes were opened. They woke up from their lack of understanding. The scales fell from their eyes. This episode also describes our experience at Mass. The Emmaus encounter gives us the beautiful image of the Eucharistic liturgy. We are fed from the table of the word, the Scriptures. Then at the table of the Eucharist, our eyes open. That’s what Jesus did for the Emmaus disciples. 

Think about this expression from these disciples, “Stay with us.” They started off expressing their trauma, “looking downcast.” The time of the day when this is happening is also significant. Scripture says, “for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” From the story of creation, the evening always played a significant role in describing transitions. In relation to the day, the evening is a time when the light begins to fade. The evening is a time when activities begin to slow down. The evening is a period when the energy level is low. One of the persons who did an exegesis on the implications of the evening, Dane Ortlund (2018) once wrote, “The evening, in particular, is associated throughout the OT as the time of expiration, weariness, and the coming of an end.” He cites examples in the Psalms, “My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass” (Ps 102:11/101:12). “I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust” (Ps 109:23/108:23). The gospels use the evening to describe several actions around the mission of Jesus. For the Emmaus disciples, evening captures the state of mind as their day was figuratively getting over. They’re feel rejected before Jesus stepped in.  

The quarantine experience can be likened to the evening in our lives. It is as if the light is dimming. As if we are getting tired. Most of us feel downcast. Like we are on our Emmaus experience, perhaps not reached the destination yet. The question is: What sort of things? What sort of thing is on your heart? He is listening and wants you to speak. He, in turn, will speak to you. Is it possible that Jesus is journeying with you? Is it possible that like these disciples, you are not aware of his presence? Is it possible that you are not able to recognize him because you feel dissipated, depressed, and dejected? Open your heart to Jesus.

Throughout human history, there have always been times of difficulty. Always. Our parents and grandparents suffered wars and plagues or other problems. God has always purified his people and in the end, it’s a grace. Like Peter and the apostles, pray courage from the Holy Spirit. He will enlighten your heart and mind. Ask for interior peace. Keep asking. Yes, the road may be narrow, still, Jesus walks with you. The road may be thorny, yet He walks with you. The road may be long, yet He walks with you. From Good Friday, Easter will certainly be here. 

Pick up your scriptures. Seek the enlightenment from God’s word. Ask Jesus to stay with you on this journey. Ask him to stay with your family during this time. Ask him to give you an understanding beyond what is happening. Jesus brightens the journey. He gives meaning to our meaninglessness, hopes to our hopelessness. He makes the dawn come quick after the evening. He opens our eyes. Jesus will lead you back to Jerusalem, the place of testimony and reunion with your loved ones. 

  

May. 25, 2019

Let us not place unnecessary burdens upon them.

Readings: 1st- Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; 2nd- Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23; Gospel- Jn. 14:23-29

We may want to ask what kind of peace does the world give. The world gives material peace, compromised peace. The world’s peace is based on worldly pleasures.  

The first reading reports, “there arose no little dissension and debate” about the issue of circumcision for the Gentile converts. Some Jews were pressing to have them circumcised into the Mosaic practice before they would be counted among those to be saved. This created huge tension among the disciples. They summoned the Jerusalem council to look at the matter. Paul, Barnabas, and others insist on giving these Gentiles access to the gospel unconditionally. They related their missionary experiences to the other disciples. James, the leader of the Jerusalem church at the time, referred the apostles to the words of the scripture. Those positive words formed the judgment of the Council regarding the Gentile converts as the disciples maintained, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage” (Acts 15:28-29). Here, we must pay attention to the mention of the Holy Spirit in the decision taken by the apostles. The Gentiles only need to keep God’s commandment and do what is spiritually right. 

Jesus says in the gospel, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn. 14:23). Loving God and keeping his word therefore become the condition for experiencing God’s love in return. Christ says, “we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” “We,’ here, refers to the presence of the Trinity. Whoever loves Jesus keeps God’s word. The person is not driven by unnecessary legalistic demands that sometimes create racial and ethnic dissensions. Whoever does not love God is not directed by God’s word. Such a person has no interest in the gospel. 

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s special gift to the disciples. He connects us to the peace of Christ by teaching and coaching us in the ways of God’s love. The peace of Christ is a lasting peace; it remains with his followers irrespective challenges and conflicts. Christ’s peace surpasses all human obstacles, failures, persecution, rejection, fear, and death. From the statement of the Jerusalem council in the first reading, we notice that those who pushed for the circumcision of the Gentile converts failed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The disciples maintained, “Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind” (Acts 15:24). To “disturb your peace of mind” means to disturb the peace that comes from Christ gives. Circumcision was the source of the peace for the Jewish society of the time. It is based on legalistic and societal demands. It is based on human connections. Some Jews including some disciples wanted the Gentiles to be like them before being like Christ. Some of us behave  like that in today’s world.

Some of us feel that others must be like them because they consider themselves owners of the United States. Some of us feel reluctant about accepting others in their midst. We want Spanish people to speak English before they would become Christians/Catholic. We want immigrants and strangers to be like us, else they leave. I’ve heard people ask, “why should they not be like me if they want to stay in America? “Why should we learn this language or that?” “In the church, why don’t they speak English? Why should we have Mass in other language other than English?” If you think that way, don’t you think you’re placing unnecessary burdens upon strangers and immigrants? Don’t you think you’re multiplying laws by wanting others to be just like you? 

Let me tell you this, you won’t understand the plight of strangers until you travel to other people’s lands and become a stranger.  I use myself as an example. At this point, I am processing my green card which is what I need to become an immigrant. I came into the U.S. very legally, sure you know that. And I am productive here. I am contributing to the society in a spiritually and pastorally meaningful way. While this process is on, I was given a parole card which is my work authorization and temporary status identity. As I was returning from Nigeria on May 11th, I came in through Atlanta. I was pulled aside at the immigration entry point. The treatment was different because I had only the parole card. The immigration officer took me to a different section and sat me down on a long bench. He ran multiple background checks on me. After that, he stamped on my passport, “Paroled till 2020.” 

Now, my driver’s license will expire on July 28, 2019. Last week, I received the notice to renew my license, so on Thursday, I went to MVA to renew my license. It was different. They ran several checks and were not able to pull up my record. Again, it was different. The white lady behind me felt so sorry for me because she noticed how I was pulled back and forth one line to another. The MVA licensing manager called the department of Homeland Services and at the end, they told me that my license could only be extended till November 2019. That means, I might be without driver’s license by November if my green card isn’t out. When you here that someone is out of status, you might not know the various reasons if you’re not a stranger/immigrant. Think about the inconveniences of going back to MVA by November. Think about the money I will spend in renewing my license almost after every five months. But one thing is certain, have the peace of Christ in my heart. I cannot run out of the status which God has given me as a Christian. I’m not referring to those who are coming into the U.S. illegally because that’s different. 

We should also know that there are people like me who are Spanish, Asian, strangers from all over the world. Such persons might have come in legally but not finding things easy because of immigration bottlenecks. They’re different from those who are entering illegally but things have become so tough for them. Their fault is that they are strangers and immigrants. We shouldn’t make things difficult for such people in the faith as well. When we come into the church and still discriminate, we make things worse in the midst of legalistic challenges. We act like these Jews who seeking to have the Gentiles circumcised. 

We all need the peace of Christ. It is peace that promotes love for one another. It is peace that comes from the knowledge of the Gospel. It is peace which derives from the Holy Spirit. It is peace that says, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’ (Matt. 25:34-36).

 

 

  

May. 18, 2019

LOVE GLORIFIED IN SUFFERING

Readings: 1st- Acts 14:21-27; 2nd- Rev. 21:1-5; Gospel- Jn. 13:31-33a, 34-35

Suffering is portrayed as a positive element in today’s readings. It starts with the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas across the Jewish and Gentile territories. Paul and Barnabas make new disciples as well as strengthen the old disciples. They remind these disciples of the inevitable fact that hardship occupies a prominent place in the Christian life. Paul and Barnabas encourage them to persevere in the faith with the words, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” These apostles demonstrate great love in their missionary experience which extends to the Gentile territory.

The spirit of perseverance is continued in the second reading. John uses images and symbols intended to give hope and confidence to the persecuted church. In his vision, God has the ultimate victory and will bring everything to perfection at the end of time. Such words are meant to provide for believers a deeper understanding of God’s abiding presence. According to John, God will wipe away every tear from his people’s eyes. He will destroy death and will eliminate grief and mourning in their midst. God’s presence will bring newness in the life of his people.

The gospel passage is mostly the extract from John’s gospel used at the Last Supper. It recounts the betrayal by Judas and the institution of the Sacrament of Love. Within two chapters in this gospel periscope, Jesus uses the word glorification five times: “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once” (Jn. 13:31-32). Jesus speaks intensely here about his imminent death which is the coming hour. Glory means praise and exaltation. Jesus is aware of his imminent death, yet he speaks of it as being glorified. The death of Christ brings to fulfilment the mission for which he came. His death is not a punishment by the Father, otherwise, he wouldn’t be talking about it as being glorified. He remarks that “God will glorify him in himself” meaning that he’s united with the Father through death. Scripture says, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1). Jesus’ death is the expression of God’s love for humanity.

A second aspect of that gospel shows the implication of Christ’s death. Here, we are presented with the relationship between death and his love. His death is the sacrifice which he offers for humanity. In this sacrifice is the image of God’s love as he says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Christ offers us his body and blood upon the Cross. He institutes for us the commandment of love. The challenge is that we have to imitate Christ’s love in our relationship with others. Christ maintains, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn. 13:34). Can we really love one another as Christ loved us? Can we love to the point of death?

Let us recognize that love involves sacrifice. Love is not leisure. It is not an activity of convenience. Love is demanding. To love one another as Christ loved us is a Christian duty and a responsibility that we owe. It’s a sacrifice that we must make. Loving sacrificially becomes the way to glorify God. Let’s therefore see love as service to God in response to the love of Christ for us. Christ died on the Cross for love. He forgave. He prayed for his executioners. He pardoned sinners. He opened his arms wide to welcome everyone to the Father’s embrace. He tells us, “so you also should love one another.” Let us imitate Christ in his sacrifice in our love for others- family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, immigrants, homeless, naked, poor, depressed, lonely, hungry, etc. By loving sacrificially, everyone will recognize that we are disciples of Christ.

 

May. 12, 2019

THE SHEEP HEAR THE VOICE AND FOLLOW THE SHEPHERD

Readings: 1st- Acts 13:14, 43-52; 2nd- Rev. 7:9, 14-17; Gospel- Jn. 10:27-30

 

The goal of the Christian life is eternity. That’s what Christ came to give, the reason why he gave up his life. Christ is the Good Shepherd who know his sheep.

In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas move into the Gentile territory to spread the good news. In this first missionary journey to Antioch, they encounter large crowd of believers. As the gospel message continues to grow, they equally experience opposition from some Jews who contradict their message. These Jews are jealous of Paul and Barnabas. They circulate falsehood and make Paul’s missionary work tough. Paul and Barnabas move to the Gentiles with the words, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Those Jews reject the gospel, the message of life. They miss the opportunity to benefit from the richness of god’s word. On the other hand, the Gentiles take advantage their stubbornness. They are excited at the good news. The Gentiles are joyous that God could speak to them.

The second reading pictures the universality of God’s love with the vision of John. A great multitude from all parts of the world make up the image in heaven; people from every nation, race, people, and tongue. Both the Gentile and the Jewish community are represented before the throne of the Lamb. The Good Shepherd brings everyone into eternity without discrimination. He rewards his followers with the gift of life in the most perfect sense. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. There is no hunger, no thirst, no heat of the sun, and no darkness anymore because the presence of the Lamb is an everlasting presence, safety for evermore.

As the Good Shepherd, the mission of Jesus is to establishing an eternal relationship with his flock. It is a relationship which leads us to the ultimate realities of heaven. Jesus says, “I know my sheep and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Jesus knows his sheep. He cares for his sheep. He looks after them. He feeds them. He sacrifices for them. He invites the sheep to follow him. To be able to follow the Good Shepherd, we must hear his voice when he speaks. And the truth is that the sheep feels safe, secure, confident, and loved by the Shepherd. Jesus speaks to us through the Church; in the sacraments, in the words of the scripture. Jesus speaks through the voices of ministers and pastors. Jesus speaks to us in the family through our parents. He speaks to us through our teachers and guardians. Jesus speaks to us through our consciences guiding us to the knowledge and understanding of what is right.

The mission of the Good Shepherd is this, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” That’s exactly the mission of Christ, “I came that they may have life in full” (Jn. 10:10). The expectation for the sheep is clear, to listen to the voice of the shepherd and to follow. In the preceding verse, Jesus distinguishes between the sheep and the stranger this way, “But because you are not my sheep, you refuse to believe” (Jn. 10:27). Again, in another encounter Jesus states, “Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God" (Jn. 8:47). 

Hearing and following are two important actions in human life and in every relationship. The marriage relationship begins with those actions. The man sees a woman, speaks to her about his love for her. The woman hears the voice of the man, falls in love with him and follows him. She feels safe and secure with the man. If the man’s voice is soothing, comforting, and promising, the woman follows with the hope that the man would be a good husband and that two of them would make a home together. If the voice of the man does not appeal to the woman, she refuses to follow him. There won’t be any marriage. Also, while married, couples listen to the voices of each other. If a couple finds the voice of her spouse supportive and strengthening, he/she listens and follows. If she/he doesn’t, it becomes hard to listen to that voice and to follow. There’s fear, anxiety and conflict in such relationship. The sheep is not guaranteed of safety and security. 

As parents and teachers, too, we speak to our children. They hear our voices and follow us. They listen and follow if they believe in what we say to them. Children who love the voices of their parents do what they tell them. They look forward to such voices. They believe that their parents will lead them to safety and to success in life. They follow their voices. In the church, the flock listen to the voices of the pastors and ministers. The flock is willing to hear the voice if such voices provide comfort and hope. The flock follows the voices of good and caring pastors. They obey them and heed to their instructions.

Hearing and following are actions that demand trust. Jesus says, “No one can take them out of my hand” and “no one can take them out of the Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:28, 29). Can we say the same thing about those whom we love and care for? Can we say of our church members, wives, children, that no one can take them out of our hands? The reason why Christ says that is because his hands provide safety for the sheep. The sheep listen to his voice, hear his voice, and follow him. 

Our job is to imitate the Good Shepherd. Our job is to provide safety for the flock entrusted into our care. Our voices should convey hope, trust and confidence. Our voices should be soft and supportive. Our voices should be meek and sincere. Our job is to lift the weak, the needy, the broken hearted. Our job is to provide guidance. Our job is to provide comfort and healing. The sheep seek assurance and safety from the shepherds of our time. They seek safety and assurance in the church, at home, school and in workplaces. The sheep will always listen and follow if the shepherds’ voices portray trust and hope. 

May Christ the Good Shepherd give us the grace to lead the sheep on a path that leads to eternal life.