Good Shepherd Sunday
“I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep recognize my voice!”
We recognize the Lord’s voice through hearing the Gospels proclaimed every Sunday, the Word of God. And the Good Shepherd calls us by name.
I have heard from the Brothers who have gone to the Holy Land, that one day they took a trip to the Lake of Galilee but stopped in the hills sides on the way for a lunch break. The shepherds had also taken their break and were beginning to break up and head back to their respective homes. Their sheep were all mingled together but at the sound of the voices of their shepherds heading home. They called to their sheep as they walked away and the sheep fell in behind them. Slowly the mass of tangled sheep separated, with each strand of sheep following their shepherd, going on their way.
Over the years we hear the gospels read each Sunday and slowly we become familiar with them to the point that hopefully our daily decisions are made in the light of them. The familiar wrist bands that have the letters “WWJD” written on them, or “What would Jesus do?” were popular several years ago, reminds us to call to mind the Good Shepherd in difficult situations, “What would Jesus do?”
Besides this being Good Shepherd Sunday, we could also call it The Good Gate-keeper Sunday. Jesus is the Gate through which the sheep enter green pastures. My fellow seminarian also mentioned that the sheep compound or sheep-fold is surrounded by a tall stone wall build out in the pastures where the sheep can enter at night with the shepherd, but there was no wooden gate. There is nothing, just an opening. Once the sheep entered, the shepherd lays down in the opening. That way anyone entering will have to step over the shepherd to get to the sheep! Jesus is our Sheep Gate leading us to greener pastures, protecting us, laying down his life for us.
To recognize the Shepherd’s voice, we have to spend a lot of time with the Lord…through Scriptures, and once a week is not enough. If you want a closer relationship with the Lord, you have to spend more time with him, as in any relationship. You may have friends that you try to get together once a week, but find it difficult because of family obligations. I am sure in the beginning you had spent more time with them when the relationship was first growing. These may have been relationships before marriage. In order to keep the relationship alive, you still have to spend quality time with the person.
Spending time with the Lord requires they same quality time. I know some people with children/ grandchildren use the evening time after the kids are in bed to spend with the Lord through Scriptures or Spiritual Reading. Spending time with the Lord through your family, counts. For example, you may talk about the Lord to your young children, or even discuss the Gospel Readings after the Sunday Liturgy with them. Many family members pray regularly during the week, even though it may be the short time before they all go to bed. My mom would read to us from the “Bible Story Book”. Imagine all eleven of us crowded on the living room sofa.
There are many voices today that try to impersonate the voice of the Good Shepherd, and some for profit. Even Jesus knew that such people existed; whether false prophets, corrupt religious leaders, or the money changers in the temple. “Those who try to enter by going in another way are thieves and robbers!” We need to know the voice of the Good Shepherd against all the other noisy background voices competing for our souls.
As a community, we know each other. So when someone new comes to our liturgy, it takes a while for us to get to know them and get used to their presence. We give them time. And when they have attended our liturgy over a period of time we feel they have joined our community, sometimes we may even know their names. Their mere presence over the weeks is enough for us. In a way, we have become Good Shepherds as a community. But as an individual, we still represent the Good Shepherds through our words and actions when we influence others in good ways, leading them back to the Lord. That is a Good Shepherd, merely someone who leads another back to the Lord.
The time comes in our lives when we become the Good Shepherd ourselves to others. Today there are too many Gatekeepers, those who keep people out because they are different form our community. The early church had too many gatekeepers.
Orthodox means right or correct belief or teachings. But who determines those who are right or wrong? The split between the Roman and Orthodox Churches was over the “filioque” clause that the Roman Church added to its Creed. Who was right or wrong there, the Roman Church? In the end it was just another way to describe how the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son: “and the Son” or “filioque”. Whereas the Orthodox believed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son. The Romans pictures the Trinity as a triangle; the Orthodox pictures the Trinity as a straight line! Who is right, who is wrong, who cares?
Pope Paul VI admitted that it was two ways to view the Trinity and thus ended the 800 and more years of separation.
Today’s nitpicking over the Liturgy (or whatever) will be tomorrows quiet resolution and acceptance of differences. We need more Good Shepherds, not more Gatekeepers. We can leave the Gate-keeping up to the Good Shepherd who laid down his life because of all the bickering.
We are called to be “Other Christs”, and that implies being Good Shepherd, that is, to lead others to Christ. That is why we pray to Mary, as she formed her son, may she form us into other Christs that we may lead others to him.