April 17, 2016
by Maureen McCann Waldron
Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 51

Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
John 10:27-30

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Easter Joy in Everyday Life

Jesus said:“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27-30

I'm aware that it's hard for me in the modern world to understand the incredibly close connection between a shepherd and his sheep, and because we often lack that experience, we might miss the power of what Jesus is telling us in today's gospel.

In Jesus' time, and still in some parts of the world today, shepherds know the personality of each of their sheep. Isolated for days at a time with his herd, the shepherd would talk to the animals, sing to them and sleep among them. When he took them to a stream to water them, he also would come across other shepherds and their flocks, giving them a chance to socialize as the sheep mingled together at the water. There was no worry about which sheep belonged to which flock, and when it was time to leave, the shepherds would call to their own sheep, who untangled themselves from the mix and followed the caring and familiar voice of their own shepherd.

It's a wonderful and loving image of care and protection, but something about it makes me hesitate. Do I really want a shepherd? I am drawn to the image it presents, but I sometimes chafe at the idea of not being independent. Do I want the kind of love, protection and care Jesus offers? Like my three year old granddaughter, I want to say, “I can do it myself!”

My stiff-necked stubbornness to do things my own way is what led Israel, God's chosen people, to forget who they were and why they had been chosen. They began to lose sight of the One who had offered them this special relationship and in today's first reading, we see that when the chosen people drifted away, the Gentiles were "delighted" to accept.

Delighted? What has happened to my own delight in the shepherd? Pope Francis says, “Many put themselves forward as 'shepherds' of our lives; but only the Risen One is the true Shepherd, who gives us life in abundance.” These false shepherds are ingrained in the culture in which my life is immersed, with so many promises of love, happiness, safety and security, if only I follow one path or another. I don't always listen to the right voice.

“Jesus’ voice is unique,” Pope Francis says. “If we learn to distinguish it, he guides us on the path of life, a path that goes beyond even the abyss of death.” It is that path that my heart longs to follow, to listen to the voice of Jesus calling to me. And when I finally realize I have lost my way and wandered off the path, I can follow that voice to be safe and secure.

Jesus, thank you for helping me to listen to your voice. When I am too busy and distracted, I can't hear you calling me to come home to the warmth of your love. Whether I pay attention or not, I know you are waiting there for me, always, with your open arms and your endlessly loving gaze. Help me to take time each morning to sit in the quiet with you and to thank for this great gift of your love. Help me recognize your voice and to recognize that your guidance and comfort are all that I need.

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