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Hearing Our Shepherd’s Voice
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
Opening Prayer: Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
- My Sheep Hear My Voice: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Jesus spoke these words during the Feast of Dedication, which is Hanukkah, the feast founded by Judas Maccabaeus to commemorate the cleansing of the Temple and the restoration of its services after the defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. Jesus was standing in Solomon’s Portico in the Temple of Jerusalem. Solomon was the son of David, the young shepherd who God anointed as King of Israel one thousand years before Jesus. Jesus’ words here were in response to the crowd of Jews who asked him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus responded as asked because every Jew in that time knew God’s house was the Temple. Every Jew knew they were the chosen people. Every Jew knew sheep refuse to follow any voice other than their master’s. Every Jew knew only God could give eternal life. Jesus was speaking very plainly here. How many of them would allow Jesus’ words to penetrate their hearts? How many would let Jesus heal them of their spiritual blindness and see he is the Messiah? Do we believe Jesus is who he says he is? If so, are we willing to follow him completely, refusing to listen to any other voice that is not God?
- Belonging to God: “No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” This statement revealed Jesus’ great desire to draw those listening even deeper into an understanding of his relationship as the Son of God to God the Father. His words here evoked Psalm 100:3, which we pray today, “Know that the Lord is God; he made us, his we are; his people, the flock he tends. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” The Catechism teaches, “It pleased God in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature (CCC 50).” We can judge the Jews for not seeing what seems obvious, but how often are we blind to the awesome reality that we know we are children of God because God has chosen to reveal that to us?
- One in the Holy Trinity: “The Father and I are one.” Jesus, the Word made Flesh, could not speak more plainly to the Jews–and to us–than he does here. The Catechism is just as clear: “God, who ‘dwells in unapproachable light,’ wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself, God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity” (CCC 52). If we have been blind to this great love and mercy of God, let us commit ourselves from this moment on to join in praise as we just prayed in Psalm 100:1-2, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, where I am blind and do not see your goodness, please heal me. Jesus, in all the places I do not follow you, please call me. I desire to know my Master’s voice, and I desire that you know me. I forget so often how it is you who desire to reveal yourself to me and how it is me that closes myself off from you. Mother Mary, help me to follow your Son so he can take me to our Father.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church so as to grow in greater knowledge of God and his Church.
For Further Reflection: Read and meditate on the Catechism of the Catholic Church 50-53.
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him in order to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.