Easter – 4th Sunday
Acts 2:14, 36-41
1 Peter 2:20-25
Jesus said, “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.”
Many have heard about the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, and have often seen a picture of Jesus with a lamb draped across his shoulders.
But here we have this image of the shepherd who calls his own sheep by name, leading them.
It connotes both a long familiarity, trust, and ongoing action.
In a similar but even better way, God chooses us, calls us by name, and wants us to learn the right way to go. Recall the sacrament of baptism. What happens there? First, the name of the person is given to the priest, who then baptizes the person by their name into the name of God. In this divine exchange God calls us by name and then also gives us His name. We are adopted into God’s family by baptism and are called to a divine inheritance.
Jesus, the divine shepherd, calls each of us by name into his family.
Jesus, the divine shepherd, leads us where we are to go.
Jesus’ main purpose in his ministry was to build the kingdom of God. Therefore his love is a constructive love.
It is a love that gives knowledge to the ignorant.
It is a love that gives freedom to those who are in bondage.
It is a love that gives healing to those who are wounded and are in pain.
It is a love that gives meaning and significance to confusion.
It is a love that gives eternal life to all who had been doomed to death.
It is a love that gives perfection to everything disfigured by sin.
The voice of Jesus the good shepherd, calls us to follow him into knowledge, freedom, healing, meaning, and the perfection of eternal life. Sounds like a good place, doesn’t it? Want to go there?
Jesus, the divine shepherd, will lead us where we need to go.
He calls us. We need to listen to him.
Well, the key to following Him is to do something we all struggle with. It is that little word – obedience. But in order to be led by Jesus we need to learn obedience to him.
Obedience is a tough sell in our culture. Because we all want to be independent. We all want to be assertive and to be leaders. And so we mistakenly believe that those qualities are contrary to the ideal of obedience. But I submit to you that the strongest and best people are those who have learned the art of obedience. Obedience to God is, in its essence, a deep listening to God. It is a receptivity to God that is unencumbered by selfishness.
In order to truly be a disciple of Jesus we need to learn to listen to His voice and then obey his commands.
Our listening to the Lord is a spiritual listening through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Rarely does the Lord speak audibly to us in his own voice, though I have heard this voice once. And I know others who have heard the audible voice of the Lord. But most often the Lord speaks to us through the chosen instruments of his kingdom. There are three interdependent voices that we need to recognize and hear. And they are all present during mass.
The first is the Word of God. The bible. If you want to hear God’s voice then listen to the readings from the bible during mass. Take note, and God will speak to you through sacred scripture.
The second is the magisterium. The magisterium is the pope and the bishops – those men who are called to continue the work of the apostles. Their instruction to us is present in the mass. Consider - the way we celebrate mass today is the fruit of the work of the bishops during the second Vatican council. And from time to time they ask us to consider different parts of the mass in order to instruct us in how we are to live as Christians.
The third is sacred tradition. This is the voice of countless men and women who have preceeded us in faith and whose voices are present in the prayers and songs that we offer, and other ways that we pray and live out our faith.
The Lord speaks to us through the bible, the magisterium, and tradition. They are interconnected and together offer us proper understanding of how the Lord leads us to the fullness of life.
This also illuminates a certain crisis that we as believers face. We don’t always like what we hear being spoken to us in the word of God, by the magisterium, and in sacred tradition. When the Church tells us to welcome the stranger - and it conflicts with our politics, we get uneasy. When the church tells us that artificial contraception is a sin – and it conflicts with our sexual practices, we prefer to discount this teaching as irrelevant. When the church tells us to be holy, and we are busy with our own lives, we tend to think of holiness as quaint and mainly for dead saints. We’re just ordinary people, we like to say.
But that’s not the way it works. Jesus calls you and me to follow him. He wants us to trust him with our lives. He has a good plan for you and for me. So the question put to us is whether or not we choose to listen to his voice and to follow him.
He truly is the good shepherd. He won’t lead you wrong. In him you’ll find freedom, healing, meaning, and life to the full. And he is calling us all. Let’s follow him into the fullness of the kingdom.