5-7-2017 Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2017
Easter IV / Good Shepherd / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
The voice is a wonderful instrument. A voice can deeply move us, it can surprise us, it can frighten us, it can wake us up, it might even cause us to fall in love! A voice can also be very powerful—think of Martin Luther King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech, or a great Shakespearean actor playing Othello or King Lear. I love opera, so I admire many great opera voices, filling an entire auditorium. Or, the small voice of a child. It is said that a mother can recognize the voice of her own child in a room full of babies—and babies know their mother’s voice. And how often do we say on the phone, "it is good to hear your voice."
The Gospel today is about a voice—the voice of the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd who calls each of us by name. As Ps 23 said in our responsorial today, the voice of the Good Shepherd leads us "to verdant pastures, where he gives (us) repose, to restful waters, where he refreshes our souls."
You know, we have a tendency to think of God as something distant, abstract, far away from us. We call God "the unmoved mover," "the first principle," "the first cause of all things"—abstract and philosophical descriptions that seem so impersonal.
But the Bible speaks of God in very personal terms. God has a "voice" that speaks to us directly and powerfully. "Thus says the Lord," in the words of the prophets. Or, "the word of the Lord came to the prophet." This powerful voice even brought the world into being: "And God said, Let there be light! And there was light." But God also listens to our voice, as it says so beautifully in Ps 139: "O Lord, you have probed me and you know me, you understand my thoughts from afar, even before a word is on my tongue, you know the whole of it." Our God is a personal God, who loves us, cares for us, and Shepherds us. "I know mine, and mine know me."
As Christians, we might say that we were born to hear God—God who created us for himself. We are "hard wired" for God. This is why we—the sheep—respond to the voice of God, to the Word of God. When our Shepherd calls, we follow.
And this is why any other voice is a "thief and a robber." Other voices mislead us, take us down the wrong path, distract us. We live in a world of many voices—many competing voices, all of which want our attention. Money. Fame. Sex. Honor. Pleasure. Power. All of these call out to us and invite us to follow. But they are all thieves and robbers—stealing us away from the one voice that can satisfy us—God, the Good Shepherd.
But how do we "hear" the voice of God? A good practical question. And the answer is not complicated. In fact, it is fairly easy. 1) We hear the voice of God through the Scriptures ("were not our hearts burning"), 2) in the teaching of the Church, 3) in the liturgy, 4) in the lives of the saints and good people, and 5) in the voice of our conscience.
If we don’t hear the voice of God, then we have to ask ourselves some important questions. 1) Scripture: do I listen to the Scripture; do I not just read it but hear it. 2) The teaching of the Church—do I consider it important, or just "another voice" among many? 3) The Liturgy—close to 75% of Catholics do not attend Mass regularly. You won’t hear the voice of God if you avoid the Eucharist. 4) The Saints—do we know their lives, and do we follow their example? 5) Conscience—do we listen to that voice within us, or do we ignore it?
The Good Shepherd speaks to us in all of these, and probably many other places as well.
The voice of the Good Shepherd. Where the Shepherd goes, we follow, because "I know mine, and mine know me.