FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 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.