Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd
Good Shepherd Sunday
April 30, 2023
“A thief comes only to steal and to slaughter and to destroy.
I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
Every year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, Christ comes to us in the liturgy as the Good Shepherd. It is a comforting image. So many have been consoled by praying the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord Is My Shepherd There Is Nothing I Shall Want.” One of the dynamics between a flock of sheep and a shepherd who cares for them is that the sheep get to know the shepherd and trust him. They recognize his voice and will respond to it, whereas other voices frighten them and may cause them to run away. So Jesus tells us to get to know the voice of the Shepherd and to beware of other voices which will lead us astray and may even cause us to lose our soul by following the wrong “voice”.
How do we recognize Christ’s voice in our life? Most of us have never heard Christ speak to us directly. How do we know it is Christ speaking to us? When it is Jesus who speaks, his voice leads us to holiness, to encouragement, to courage, to perseverance, to hope. One of the best ways to know we are listening to God in our lives is if we are exhibiting the fruits of the Holy Spirit. What are these fruits? According to St. Paul, we will manifest such things as joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self-control and chastity. Whereas when we yield to the devil or a voice that is not from God, what shows up are behaviors like selfishness, unforgiveness, jealousy, a sinful yielding to anger, blasphemies, vulgarities, sexual immorality and a life of unfruitfulness or unkindness to other people. These are, for example, choices the entertainment industry often serves up to us regularly if we are not careful.
It is critical in our spiritual lives to recognize which voices we are listening to. In our culture, the media delivers anything we want and sometimes we may not realize that what we are listening to is deadly. Taking in pornography can destroy one’s marriage and quite possibly the soul as well. If all I take in are secular newscasts and websites, I will be getting all of my spiritual theology from secular sources. Since most of us get our news online these days, what online Catholic news sources do I look at? I personally get a number of Catholic magazines as well as subscribe to Catholic News Agency, for example. You might say to me: “Of course you do, you are a priest.” Well, I haven’t always been a priest, but have subscribed to these things for many years before entering the seminary. The Good News (the gospel) helps form us. The wrong kind of news can deform us.
Whose voice am I listening to? Is it the voice of the Good Shepherd? Or is it the voice of the evil one? The Lord wants us to learn to discern this by the fruits of our lives. Is my life fruitful or is it lacking in fruit?