April 17, 2016: 4th Sunday of Easter C
“World Day of Prayer for Vocations”
Click to hear Audio Homily
At the beginning of this homily, I’d like to offer all of you a free hearing test. It’s a very simple test so listen carefully to these questions: 1) What was the first reading about? Can you name some of the characters in the reading? 2) Do you remember the response to the Psalm today? 3) From what book of the Bible was the second reading taken? What images do you remember from the second reading? Some of us have to admit that we did not do too well at the hearing test--a test of whether we are listening to the voice of God. For some of us, the only time during the week that we listen to God’s voice is when we attend Sunday mass.
Why is it necessary to listen to God’s voice? Psalm 23 explains it beautifully. “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
How comforting it is to be guided and protected by such a shepherd!
In the Gospel today, Jesus introduces himself as the good shepherd of his flock. He says that he knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice. Jesus knows each of us, our needs, our merits, and our faults. He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to return his love by keeping his word. He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, through our friends, and through the events of our lives. Jesus also gives eternal life to us, his sheep, by receiving us into his sheepfold and giving us faith in Baptism, and by strengthening that faith in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls in the Holy Eucharist and in the divine words of the Holy Bible. Jesus also protects us placing us in the loving hands of his Almighty Father. He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones. He heals the wounds of our souls through the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age with the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Most importantly, Jesus offers his life for his sheep, as an atonement for the sins of all people.
Jesus says that no one will be able to snatch us, his sheep, out of his hands. The only way his sheep will come out of his hands is when the sheep choose to leave. Jesus doesn’t put his sheep in a cage. If we wander off freely, hearing someone else’s voice, he will go after us, to try to bring us back, but he respects our freedom to leave, even if this is an abuse of our freedom. Yet without Jesus to guide us and protect us, we are an easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world, including Satan and his minions.
We know that given our life circumstances it is difficult for us to really listen to the voice of the Lord and really follow him. There is plenty noise in the world that competes for our attention. We may be too busy or tired to start or end the day with the living word of God in the bible. Without pondering daily on scriptures and a period of silent prayer, our soul feels lost, like a styrofoam cup floating on a turbulent lake. We cannot afford to be without the guiding voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. If you did not do well on the hearing test, meditate on this Sunday’s readings as your prayer today. Make the effort to listen to Jesus’ voice through his living words in the scripture. We are his sheep; he is our shepherd.