To know and recognize the voice of one who cares for you is of great significance. It gives one a sense of connectedness and a sense of belonging when we hear the familiar voice. I recall a rather amusing illustration of the recognition of one’s voice. Early within the first year or two of my being assigned to Saint Leo University where I served as campus minister a student recognized my voice in a most peculiar setting. I had gone to the movies with a Franciscan seminarian, while at the Cinema I was watching the movie and something made me laugh, not just me but the whole theater. If you know me you know I have a very loud voice. Out of the darkness of the movie theater I hear a voice with a distinctive Bronx accent “Hey Father, is that you Father it’s me Tony Father, you know from the apartment fire”. I laughed the more as this student in a dark movie theater several rows in front of me recognized my voice and laughter.. He knew my voice because he would come to Mass on Sundays, or it was the voice of comfort as his apartment had caught on fire and his priest was there for him. It said to me that Tony really knew me and recognized me and my voice that he knew because it was a familiar voice that had cared for him.
I share this personal experience because Christ desires that we know and recognize His voice as the good shepherd. He knows us, he watches over us, He leads and guides us. But we need to distinguish His voice from the many other voices we are hearing all the time. We are bombarded with voices. Some voices that lie and deceive, other voices that regard other human beings as undesirables or deplorable. There are voices that try to tell you what you are seeing and hearing with your own eyes and ears really isn’t happening.
Voices that divide and degrade others, that seek to define and determine others as worthy or unworthy of care and attention. From medical care, to basic human rights to clean air and water, to equal opportunity and wages. What voices are we listening too? One cannot profess to be Pro-Life while at the same time signing people to death. Voices saying to promote life but don’t provide the postnatal care needed to help sustain life.
You see, Good Shepherd Sunday must be about a tuning to the true voice of Christ and tuning out the lies, the deception and falsehoods. When the lives of the unborn are able to be disregarded, or the rights of native peoples to clean water are ignored we fail to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. As gun violence has become the norm, we turn our heads, eyes and ears from the death and destruction we fail to care for the innocent. We are distracted by misunderstood expressions of self identity and historical truth, the voices do not provide the answers as we seek away past the crisis to find hope.
“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.”
In allowing The Good Shepherd to walk ahead of us, we are tuned to hear His voice. We cannot call ourselves a Christian nation when we follow so many other voices. As Church we are tuned to hearing Christ. When we are open to Christ leading us through the truth of His Word we are led to green pastures. Christ’s resurrection is meant to bring power over the voices of darkness, to hear and distinguish His voice of truth. Christ wants us to know that He gives us life and desires that we walk in the abundant life of blessing, hope and joy.
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”