Saturday, April 20, 2013

Christ, the Good Shepherd

 “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.”  Very often this Sunday is called Good Shepherd Sunday.  It is a good time for us to reflect on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Sheep rely on their shepherd to provide for them, to protect them, and to lead them to safety.  Now, these things apply to us as well.  God provides for us, everything we have and everything we are comes from God.  Without God we would have nothing, we would be nothing, everything comes from him.  God protects and defends us, he helps us to overcome our sinfulness, and he sent Jesus to protect us and defend us against Satan and against death.  And, God leads us to safety through the person of Jesus.  If we would just follow Jesus, he would lead us to eternal life.  I want to reflect briefly on what it means to follow the voice of Jesus.
If we are going to be followers of Jesus we have to be able to hear him.  If we do not listen to the voice of Christ, we will never be able to follow him and if we don’t follow him we will not find our way to eternal life.  It is just that simple.  Christ alone is the way to eternal life, there is no other path, there is no other way.  After Original Sin, we were lost; we could not find our way back to God, which is why God sent his Son Jesus.  He came as a lamb among the sheep, he came to lead us back to God.  He did not come as an outsider, but came as one of us so as to lead us to eternal life.  There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. 
We are saved by following Jesus, by listening to his voice.  Hopefully, this is an exciting message for us.  Hopefully, we are intrigued by this message of Jesus.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will lead us to eternal life, those who follow him will never perish.  Don’t we want that?  I think that deep down in the heart of every single human being on this planet this message strikes a chord.  The bombing in Boston reminded me this week that life can be quite fragile.  We realize that there is suffering and death in this world, and we also realize that we are made for more than that.  Isn’t it interesting, we want to live forever, we want to be with our loved ones forever.  Jesus says, You will have eternal life if you follow me.
How do we hear his voice?  It is certainly the case that Christ speaks to each one of us.  We all have a relationship with Christ.  We nourish this relationship by our lives of prayer, by our reading of the scripture, by our participation in Mass.  Our personal life of faith is very important, by it we will hear of the voice of Christ and he will lead us.  But, I really find this first reading quite interesting.  It says that practically the whole city was gathered there to listen to Paul and Barnabas.  But, the way the author phrases it is a quite interesting, it says the whole city was gathered to hear the word of the Lord.  When the apostles speak, they proclaim the word of the Lord.  I think this is a beautiful reflection on the role of the Church in our lives.
All of us, I think, want to follow Jesus.  We believe that he is our Good Shepherd, that he provides for us, protects us, and will lead us to eternal life.  We know that to be followers of Jesus means to hear his voice.  But, how can we be sure we are hearing his voice?  We rely on each other.  There is no such thing as a solitary Christian.  It is certainly true that we each have a relationship with Christ, but that relationship always leads us to the body, to the Church.  Here, we find support for living out the Christian life.  Here, we hear the voice of the Lord, we receive guidance and direction.  Here, we celebrate the Holy Mass.  Here, our Good Shepherd speaks to us in his Holy Word, he feeds us with his Body and Blood.  And, if we continue to rely on the Church, if we continue to listen to the voice of the apostles, to support one another, then Christ will lead us all to eternal life.  Christ is the Good Shepherd who came to lead us to the father.

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