On every fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church celebrates the Good Shepherd Sunday, and most reflections focus on our Lord Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd par excellence. The Gospel of this Liturgical Year (C) is characteristically different from other years not only because of the briefness of the Gospel account but more significantly because of the focus on the sheep than on the shepherd.
Without followership leadership has no job, in the same way, the sheep makes the work of the shepherd worthwhile. However, a good shepherd with a bad sheep is a disaster. In the Gospel today (John 10:27-30), our Lord Jesus Christ sets the parameters for the good sheep vis-a-vis the good shepherd.
Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd and Following
The Gospel starts with our Lord’s declaration, “my sheep hear my voice.” Apart from visual and touch recognition, voice recognition is one of the factors that one could use to identify others and maintain familiarity. In most areas where sheep farming is prevalent, it is very common to see a shepherd leading a substantial number of sheep just by making some audible sounds and marching ahead of them as they follow.
The verb “to hear” in Biblical Hebrew is Shema, and it implies giving full attention and obedience. We could recall the eternal instruction, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). When our Lord says my sheep hear my voice, he was reinstating the Shema which calls for listening to the instructions of the Shepherd and following accordingly.
Inattention and disobedience are among the major challenges facing the practice of Christian life, and they are on high demand by God. How do we respond to the instructions we receive from sermons and spiritual exhortations? Are we still paying attention to the commandments which our Lord Jesus Christ summarized with the theological virtue of love? (Matt. 22:37-40)
The Benefits of Being a Good Sheep
Obedience comes with blessings. For the sheep who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow, the Lord promises eternal life and salvation; “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” If you ask an average Christian what he or she would like God to accomplish in his or her life, you will hear things like good health, financial security, general well-being, and success; only a very few would remember to ask for eternal life and salvation of the soul.
It is very unfortunate that we often desire everything good but overlook the most essential; that which would be of immense benefits to our souls. In one of his instructions, our Lord Jesus Christ asked; “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mark 8:36). Thinks about this!
Moving Forward: The Good Sheep Project
The Lord intends that we become good sheep of His sheepfold, and this would be for our lasting good. There may be trials on the route to the response to the divine call, but the Second Reading tells us that the good sheep would survive the time of distress because they washed their robes white in the blood of the lamb (Rev. 7:14). Concerning the eternal benefits of the good sheep St. John says:
“For this reason, they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple…. They will not hunger or thirst anymore… And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. (Rev. 7:16-17).
The liturgy of the word today invites us to give full attention to the resurrected Lord and the Good Shepherd who is ready and willing to lead us to eternal life if we resolve to follow whenever he calls. Have a beautiful Sunday and Happy Mother’s Day to our lovely mothers.