4th Sunday of Easter C – The Shepherd’s Voice

As I walked along the beach at Sandymount last week the late April sun shone and a stiff breeze was coming off the bay. Three or four dogs were playing happily together and a voice rang out from the bike path above. One of the dogs, a Jack Russell mix, left the group and scampered off in the direction of the voice. I was reminded momentarily of the old world gramophones with the image of the little fox terrier mesmerized by a brass horn, and the caption His Master’s Voice. When Jesus tells his disciples that his sheep hear his voice, I wonder if he knew how difficult it would be to do that now, in this second decade of the third millennium. Indeed, his own voice met with dissent and disagreement during his lifetime.

Jesus must have found it tough having to deal with his nay-sayers, those who were still linked to their own traditions and would hear nothing of his Good News. Things haven’t changed very much today; many are still stuck in old ways and deaf to God’s Word. Our age of technology has forged an environment of imitation. The shepherd’s voice is mimicked by a sound not his own. We live in a society of wolves dressed as sheep, of pseudo-values masked as healthy and good. The shepherd calls out to his flock, but it is up to us to recognise the truth and reality of his voice. Listening is a kind of art form. To listen is to be fully in the moment, wholly aware of the other person.

To be one hundred percent aware of God is to experience that we are unconditionally loved. Bernard of Clairvaux writes of it as a rare overpowering awareness that comes unexpectedly and quickly fades away, but leaves an echo of the shepherd’s voice that keeps guiding us along the right path. More often the shepherd’s voice is heard in the cry of the poor for redress, in the frustration of the powerless, in the anger of the bullied and in the despair of those forgotten and left behind. Pope Francis has heard such cries coming from the broken people Ukraine and has appealed to the Russian aggressors to stop the senseless war.

The shepherd’s voice has been sounding from time immemorial. Its soothing timbre calls the listening ear to safety, to come home, to nourishment and life. Nature, creation itself, is like the word of God. My window looks out at a large flare of old trees blooming with new life, hedge-rows thick and alive with new leaves, bushes and grasses, flowers wild and colourful, and all seemingly calling out and proclaiming the glory of the Creator. Know that he, the Lord, is God. He made us, we belong to him, we are his people, the sheep of his flock – Psalm 99. Creation, nature, was God’s first message – the bible before the bible so to speak.

Fr. QQ – 05/04/2022

The physical structure of the universe is love – Teilhard de Chardin

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