“My sheep hear my voice and I know them; they follow me and I give them eternal life”. The image of the shepherd-sheep relationship is central in today’s celebration of the Good Shepherd Sunday. Two characteristics of the shepherd and of the sheep catch our attention. The Good Shepherd knows his flock and gives the sheep eternal life. The sheep, on the other hand, hears and follows the shepherd.
Do we still hear the voice of the Good Shepherd today? There seems to be great difficulty in listening to the Shepherd’s voice and His message. Why? There is so much noise within and outside of us. Aside from the literal and physical noise that we hear in our neighborhood, there is the lack of silence even in our own home. When was the last time your whole family just sat on the sala and listen attentively while each of your children, the father and the mother shares to everyone what transpired during the day? How often do you get together and just share laughter, stories, and anecdotes?
Today, we can hardly experience real silence at home because the whole house is dominated by the TV, the music stereo and other gadgets. We are not contented: we wear headphones all the time, as if we wanted to listen exclusively to music. Without external silence there can never be an ambiance for authentic listening.
The young people born into this noisy generation seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images. They feel that without their headphones, there is emptiness. Most young people today are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude. How can we teach them to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd? We need to teach them first to love silence!
Then, there’s the inner noise, the lack of interior silence and peace. Oftentimes, this is caused by our own defects. In the First Reading, the Jews were jealous that Paul and Barnabas were winning the attention of the people with their preaching. “So they began to oppose with insults whatever Paul said”. Jealousy and envy can be the inner noise that prevents us from listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Unless we learn to fight against them and reject them, we can never hear the shepherd’s voice.
Inner silence takes place when we strive to fight against our defects and we cling to God’s mercy. Isn’t it true that after your confession you feel a profound inner peace? Interior peace is the result of our effort to come to Jesus and to abandon in His hands all our cares. Inner peace is the product of self-abandonment in the hands of God. The confusions around us are mere reflections of what’s within, as the song goes. There is so much noise outside of us because there is so much noise inside.
Only those who listen to the voice of the Shepherd attentively are capable of following His will. He who listens attentively follows diligently. Why is there lots of confusions nowadays with regards to the teachings on moral principles that guide human actions? Why are there people today who would embrace the idea of divorce, same-sex marriage, the use of contraception, in vitro fertilization and even abortion in various countries? Why is there so much disrespect of life and family and utter disobedience of the moral order God has placed in nature? It is because there is less listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd!
The Good Shepherd says: “My sheep shall never be snatched away from me”. No outside force can separate us from the love of Christ, the Eternal Shepherd. The only thing that can snatch us away from His hand is ourselves – our refusal to listen to His voice. The great crowd in the Second Reading, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the throne and the Lamb, refers to those who persevered in listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
“Never again will they suffer hunger or thirst… For the Lamb near the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will bring them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away their tears”. May we learn to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd as He speaks in our hearts. We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us listen attentively to the voice of Her Son. Amen.