“I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got [there]. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home.” - Thomas Merton: (1915 – 1968 was an American Catholic writer and a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis.)
Gospel Text: (JN 10:27-30)
“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.”
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”, a least as the modern world defines the word “independent”. Do I want the kind of love, protection and care Jesus offers?
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.
“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.
Thank you for helping me to listen to your voice. Help me to always recognize your voice and to recognize that your guidance and comfort are all that I need.