My Sheep Hear My Voice
4th Sunday In Easter
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me …”
Every evening she could hear the newborn in the apartment next door cry and cry. The parents put the child to sleep alone in the dark. The baby cries for a long time; the exhausted parents clearly are oblivious to their child’s anguish or are at a loss as to what to do.
What can or should she do? She’s not sure. Speaking to the parents might make what is just an annoying situation into something much worse.
So, in her struggle and anguish, she decides to pray. And lo and behold; during her earnest prayer, God’s good grace inspires her to sing!
Just as she can hear the baby, the baby can hear her. So every evening when her mom and dad put the child to sleep, she sings lullabies and cradle songs, talks softly and reassuringly to the baby through the walls, consoles and comforts the child. The baby hears her invisible friendly voice and falls asleep peacefully, without a tear or whimper.
Today, we hear from chapter 10 of St. John’s gospel, where we hear Our Lord refer to Himself as the “Good Shepherd,” as well as equating Himself to the Father, during His attendance at the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem! This feast, by the way, commemorates an episode in Jewish history when Judas Maccabeus, in the year 165 B.C., after liberating Jerusalem from the control of the Syrian Kings, cleansed the temple of all profanations. It was also known as the “festival of lights” because it was customary to light lamps, a symbol of the Law, and put them in the windows of the houses.
When the Jews ask Jesus if He is the Messiah, St Augustine comments that, “they speak in this way not because they desire truth, but to prepare the way for vicious calumny and attack.”
Inspired faith, divine grace, and eternal life cannot be merited by man’s own efforts: they are gifts of God. But the Lord does not deny anyone grace to believe and be saved, because he “wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth” (1 Tim 2:4). If someone tries to avoid receiving the gift of faith, his unbelief is blameworthy. On this point St Thomas Aquinas teaches: “I can see, thanks to the light of the sun; but if I close my eyes, I cannot see: this is no fault of the sun, it is my own fault, because by closing my eyes, I prevent the sunlight from reaching me“. The same applies to the eyes of our souls – the intellect and the will. If we close our souls to the grace of faith, it’s not God’s fault; it’s our own fault!
But those who do not oppose divine grace do come to believe in Jesus. They are known to and loved by Him, enter under His protection and remain faithful with the help of His grace, which is a pledge of the eternal life which the Good Shepherd will eventually give them. It’s true that in this world they will have to struggle and in the course of struggling they will sustain anguish and wounds; but if they stay united to the Good Shepherd nothing and no one will snatch Christ’s sheep from Him, because our Father – God, is stronger than the Evil One. Our hope that God will grant us final perseverance is not based on our strength but on God’s mercy: this hope should always motivate us to pray and strive to respond to grace and to be ever more faithful to the demands of our faith, especially in this jubilee year of Mercy.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, to hear the Good Shepherd demands that we let ourselves emerge from the isolation of our own anguish, struggles, fears, disappointments, resentments and unreasonable expectations, and hear Christ speaking in the plight of the poor, the needy, the helpless, the persecuted and the vulnerable.
Christ speaks in many voices — including our own. We can be the “voice” of Christ’s compassion, comfort, consolation, forgiveness and peace in even our smallest and simplest “songs” of kindness and selflessness.
During this jubilee year of mercy and beyond, in our own acts of generosity and works of mercy, we echo and give voice to the good news of hope and grace that is our belief in the Risen Lord!
Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us!