Acts 2:14, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20-25; Jn 10:1-10
A Texan farmer goes to Australia for a vacation and while he’s there he meets an Aussie farmer. They get talking and the Aussie farmer shows off his big wheat field. The Texan is unimpressed and says, “We have wheat fields that are at least twice as large as that.” They walk around the ranch a little more, and then the Aussie shows off his herd of cattle. The Texan is again unimpressed and says, “We have longhorns that are at least twice as large as your cows/sheep.” They carry on walking around the ranch when the Texan sees a group of kangaroos hopping through the field. He asks the Aussie, “And what are those?” The Aussie replies, “Don’t you have any grasshoppers in Texas?”
In today’s gospel Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd. His sheep know his voice. In the United States, most of our ranches are self-contained. By that I mean that the rancher has his own fields for crops or grazing and his own facilities to care for his livestock. That is not the case in the most of the rest of the world, not just the ancient world of Jesus, but even in the modern world. In much of the world, the animals belonging to various families are kept together in a large pen. This is particularly true regarding sheep.
In Palestine, in Biblical times, all the sheep of a pasture were herded into an enclosure each night to protect them from predators. One of the shepherds would literally sleep in the entrance and become the door of the sheepfold. Then, at dawn, each shepherd would use his distinctive voice to call his sheep, and thus they would separate into little flocks for the day’s feeding and grooming. Today’s gospel has a very clear message for us: We, the sheep claimed by Jesus by His sacrifice, are to follow only His voice, His Word, because He is the Word of God.
Those who would lead humans into a path not of God’s making are robbers and hireling shepherds. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The true disciple hears His voice, and follows Him, just as dumb little sheep follow their true shepherd. I like to return to the beautiful scene in the garden of the Resurrection. Jesus is there, and Mary Magdalene sees Him, but she thinks He is the gardener. Then He says her name, “Mary.” There is instant recognition. The voice she heard driving seven demons out of her, the voice who taught her, said her name and she heard the unlimited love in that voice. When we pray, we should be listening for Jesus calling our name, calling us to follow Him. We will recognize that voice in the Liturgy, in our reading of Scripture, in our silent times, because it is the voice of a Love that has no bounds, a Love that is so giving that we cannot remain cold or indifferent in hearing Him.
Brian Brown tells the story of being at the community pool with his family. Kids were screaming, playing, and splashing in the pool, music was playing, the lifeguard whistles were blowing and in the midst of the conversation, his wife shooshes him. He said, “What are you doing?” “Shoosh, did you hear that?” “Hear what?” he said. “Listen!” And over all of the noise, she had heard their youngest daughter screaming. As she listened to it, she then said, “OK, everything’s alright. That’s a happy scream.”
He said he was blown away that, over all of the other voices, she not only recognized her child’s voice but was able to identify what type of scream it was. Why? Because every day she talked with them and in the process learned the sound of their voices.
Maybe that’s what it takes for us to understand His voice, that every day communication and spending time saying to God, “Speak to me.” This is why it’s so important spending time in prayer. The only way you will be able to hear the voice of God is if you spend time together.
“The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice”