May 07, 2017 - 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Sheep are smarter than everyone thinks they are. They exhibit herd behavior, which means that they instinctively know there is strength in numbers. They stay together for protection.
They are social and playful. They use all five senses. They know how to follow the leader.
They have the ability to recognize the face and the voice of their shepherd. They know their shepherd and they follow.
The shepherd’s task is to tend to and protect the sheep. The shepherd walks ahead and calls the sheep. The sheep follow because they recognize the voice.
The shepherd has a unique relationship with the sheep. The shepherd provides for the sheep. They are fed and watered and sheared and protected by the shepherd. The shepherd is a familiar figure.
Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd. So then, everything that is true of the shepherd is also true of Jesus. Jesus provides for us. Jesus protects us. And if Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then his task is to tend to the good sheep.
If we are to be the good sheep, then we need to be able to say with confidence and faith: the Lord is my shepherd.
In Psalm 23 we learn that the Lord is my shepherd. The Lord guides my steps along the right path. The Lord walks with me though the dark times giving me courage. The Lord anoints my head with oil. The Lord refreshes my soul.
In the Gospel Jesus seeks the sheep as he calls out their names. Jesus serves. Jesus sacrifices. The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus knows his sheep. They recognize his voice. He calls them by name and they follow him.
Now, let’s be clear, just because Jesus knows all the sheep by name doesn’t mean they follow.
Look at the Pharisees. They refused to listen. They refused to follow. And Jesus accused them of being thieves and robbers who steal and slaughter and destroy.
We need to learn to recognize Jesus’ face. We need to learn to recognize Jesus’ voice. We need to learn to follow the Good Shepherd. We need to return to the Good Shepherd when we hear him call out our names.
In this way, we will have life and have it more abundantly. In this way, goodness and kindness will follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.