Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, so named for the readings of this Sunday in Easter. Today’s readings, especially the gospel and the responsorial psalm, give us the imagery of Jesus as our true shepherd whom we are to follow.
Modern culture clouds our ability to embrace this imagery, which I believe farmers probably understand much more than most. In that light, I’d like to share a story with you that helped me to better comprehend this teaching.
I have a friend who lives in New Hampshire with her doctor-husband and four daughters. Over the past 10 years or so, they have been delving more and more into farming, raising animals and vegetables alike. Part of their menagerie includes sheep. She once told me, “Sheep are the stupidest animals.” I could only take her word for it.
One day, the sheep decided to hang out on the front steps making entry to the house impossible. Everyone tried to get those stubborn sheep to move, but to no avail. Pushing, shoving, cajoling, and commanding all proved ineffective. Finally, the shepherd, daughter number three, a gangly little 7 year old, arrived and called them off the stoop. Immediately they followed her! Now, if you knew her, with her small stature and demure size, then you, like I, would chuckle. She’s a little bit of a thing and to think of her commandeering these beasts is comical. For me, however, in a way as never before, she plainly illustrated John 10:4 from today’s gospel.
Jesus said,“…he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” (Jn 10:4)
This tiny waif called those sheep and they unhesitatingly followed her because they recognized her voice. Of course, we big people question their choosing her and not someone older, stronger, and wiser, as would make sense from a human point of view. But, no matter. They chose her. They knew her. They trusted her. They followed her.
As Christians we know that it is Jesus who chooses us. We, in turn, must choose Him, and in choosing, we must listen only to His voice, trust Him, and immediately obey. So often other voices draw our attention, and we stray from the security of the fold. The voices of anxiety, worry, fear, concern, sadness, or the like call us away from Jesus and His life-giving plan for us. We must have an undivided heart and single-mindedness to believe that the voice of the shepherd will guide us to wholeness and ultimate happiness.
We hear the voice of Jesus through the Church, through the scriptures, through prayer, and through the people, events, and circumstances of our days. Let us pray today, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, to grow in our ability to hear His voice, to trust Him, and to promptly obey.
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen! Anne