5-12-2019 4th Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2019
Easter IV / Good Shepherd / C / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday—a Sunday to consider the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. If you visit the ancient catacombs in Rome, you will find that the most common image of Jesus is that of the Good Shepherd. Of all the possible images of Jesus in the NT, the first Christians were most drawn to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I’ve mentioned before that the image of the cross did not become common until about the fifth century. But "the shepherd"— with the sheep draped around the shoulders—this was the image people loved.
Our Gospel today is very short—one of the shortest in the entire lectionary; but like all readings from John, it is packed with meaning. "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
The voice of the shepherd. What is it about a voice? They say that mothers can hear the voice of their child in a room full of children—and children can hear the voice of their mother. I’m told a shepherd and sheep are the same.
A voice is a very powerful instrument. You can read Shakespeare, and you will be impressed. But when you hear the text spoken by a great actor—that’s when it comes alive and touches your heart. A voice can move us, change our lives, cause us to fall in love. Think of the great voice of Martin Luther King—his "I Have a Dream" speech—that inspired the civil rights movement. I’m an opera fan, and the great operatic voices send a chill up my spine. To hear a great singer is to be inspired!
I sometimes wonder what it was like to hear the voice of Jesus. To be a part of a small band of followers, sitting at his feet, listening to the voice of the master. No doubt this voice went straight to the heart—a reminder that Christianity is about a person and a relationship: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
We hear the voice of the shepherd today in so many ways.
We hear it when we hear the Scripture proclaimed at Mass—a privileged place for the Word.
We hear the voice of the Shepherd in our pastors, in the celebration of the Eucharist, in our friends and neighbors who assist us and help us, and through that little inner voice that we call "conscience."
But, admittedly, it is not always easy to hear the voice of the shepherd. There are so many voices in our society—of politicians, of entertainers, of sports figures, of religious leaders, of editorial writers and bloggers and commentators, and so on. Which is the voice of the shepherd?
As we grow in the Christian life, our hearing should improve—like fine-tuning a radio, to hear clearly the voice of the master, the voice of the shepherd, who calls us. To choose the right path, and to follow.
And where does that path lead? "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish."
That is our goal, and that is why we follow. The Good Shepherd. The voice that calls us.