Friday, April 15, 2016

I Know Them and They Follow Me

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (C)
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Many of my students know that I keep a small flock of Soay sheep; a rare breed of primitive domestic sheep from the St. Kilda islands in the north Atlantic.  Once a student asked me if being a shepherd made me feel like Jesus. Not really, but keeping sheep does give me an appreciation of the meaning behind Jesus' words in this Sunday's gospel.  "My sheep hear my voice: I know them, and they follow me" (Jn 10:27).

Most sheep are timid beasts, and mine are no exception.  When a group of people comes to see them, the flock usually gathers in the far corner of the pasture, eyeing the strange crowd suspiciously. But if I walk out in the pasture alone, the sheep line up and walk toward me. Why the difference? The answer is simple. My sheep know me. They know I am the one who cares for them. They trust me. And because of that, they follow me.
As members of Christ's flock, we are to follow our Shepherd. But sheep will only follow one that they trust. Do you trust Jesus enough to follow Him? 

I find in my experience that lack of faith usually boils down to a lack of trust in Jesus.  

Why believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist?  Because we trust Jesus who said, "This is my body, which is given up for you" (Lk 22:19).  

Why believe in the power of forgiveness offered in the Confessional? Because we trust Jesus, who told the Apostles, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven" (Jn 20:23).  

How can we know peace in a troublesome and chaotic world?  Because we trust Jesus, who said, "Do not be anxious about your life" (Mt 6:25).

How can we have hope in the face of suffering?  Because we trust Jesus who said, "Take up your cross daily and follow me" (Lk 9:23).

Trust the Good Shepherd.  He will lead us to where we need to go. We simply need to learn to recognize His voice and trust Him enough to follow Him. We can hear our Shepherd's voice through the Church, as Christ has given us shepherds in His name, as He told Peter after the Resurrection, "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21:17). We can hear our Shepherd's voice in the scriptures. We can hear His voice in our prayer. Once we come to know and love Christ, we will follow when we hear His voice -- not cautiously or hesitantly, but with trust and love.

Christ is the Good Shepherd. He knows us, His sheep. May we always strive to hear His voice and trust in His loving care for us, so that we may follow Him to springs of life-giving waters where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev 7:17).

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