"Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as he 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.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
The sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.
The audience at the time of Jesus would have recognized the common practice of bringing different flocks into the one sheepfold at night to be guarded before the shepherds would arrive the next morning and each call out to his sheep - the sheep would then follow their own shepherd out of the gate to pasture. (1)
The sheep know the voice of their shepherd because they remain close to him; they are used to hearing his voice each time they stray, calling them back to pasture.
It is the same with us; we are challenged to hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, amidst the chaos of voices trying to lead us astray.
How do we recognize the voice of Jesus in our lives?
Firstly, we listen to those whom He has given authority and sent the Church and her Magisterium which guards the deposit of faith and the truth of all that is necessary for life and salvation.
Secondly, Pope Francis reminds us that the familiarity of the voice of the Good Shepherd is only recognizable if we cultivate the patience to wait for Him, to listen to Him and to be with Him.
“Only in the silence of prayer can one learn the voice of God, perceive the traces of His language, and have access to His truth...
I invite you to cultivate an attitude of listening, growing in the freedom of relinquishing one’s own point of view (when it is shown to be partial and insufficient), and to assume that of God.” (2)
St Peter and the church in Jerusalem are our examples of prayer and discernment. Today’s readings in Acts 11:1-18 describes the situation of the church in Judea with regards to permitting the uncircumcised to be baptized. Peter was initially met with some criticism by members of the Jerusalem community before he explained to them what has been revealed to him by God.
Their eventual receptivity to the teaching of salvation to the Gentiles was receptivity to the voice of Jesus Christ borne out of recognition and obedience to the Good Shepherd and those He has sent.
Let us pray for the grace to train the ears of our heart and eyes of our mind to recognize the voice of Jesus in our lives.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God! Psalm 43:3-4
1. The Navarre Bible: Texts and Commentaries The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, second edition 2008, Four Courts Press, Scepter Publishers, Princeton NJ, page 624. 2. Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops Ordained over the Past Year, 14 September 2014, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2017/september/documents/papa-francesco_20170914_nuovi-vescovi.html.