Dear Parishioners of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s
In recent times, the Fourth Sunday after Easter has become known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’. It is easy to see why. Jesus speaks of himself as a Shepherd in the Gospel of the Mass. But he distinguishes himself from other shepherds. He loves his sheep to the point of laying down his life for them. He is ‘good’ and ‘true’. We can accept this easily enough. After all, our faith is built on the certainty that Jesus died to save us and rose from the dead to a new and glorious life, a life he invites us to share with him. But there is more to this passage.
For me, the most striking word in this passage is ‘voice’. Jesus speaks of his voice. It is one voice among many. But when his sheep hear it, that is his disciples, they recognise it and respond to it. Let’s think about this for a moment. We are all familiar with the blizzard of information, data, voices and general noise that modern life generates. Perhaps the lockdown has introduced you to a quieter existence which can be a little troubling and uncomfortable. I have certainly found this. But which piece of information, data, and the voices behind them do we trust, do we listen to, do we invest in?
Very often, if we were honest, it comes down to a process of elimination. We sometimes make poor choices, we make mistakes, we wander this way and that. But eventually, these voices, this noise falls silent. The voice of the Shepherd who is good and true does not. What now? We cannot then say, well I have followed Jesus all my life, I know his voice so I am perfectly fine and comfortable thank you! I have always been right! The voice of Jesus does not simply reassure and encourage us. It challenges us as well. It does not allow us to simply settle into a comfortable life. He never promised us a comfortable life!
Discerning, trying to carefully work out what Jesus is asking of me is the tough part. It requires time, prayer, sincerity and a willingness to trust. If we are honest, this is the scary part. I think these last few weeks have brought this scariness into sharp relief. What next? What is going to happen? What will the world look like now? What is going to happen to me, to those I love?Uncomfortable, yes. But what a moment to allow God to act. To hear that voice again, now, when we have so little control over what comes next.
Let us consider the person of Abraham. When God called him to leave his comfortable life behind, and to journey to a new place that he did not know, he was already an old man. He responded quickly and faithfully. Each of us has benefited from that decision. That is why he is called our ‘father in faith’. He trusted the voice of God. He needed no proof. He simply trusted.
Do we have the courage to listen again to the voice of Jesus, to the voice of our Shepherd who is good and true? To simply listen? With so much uncertainty and confusion surrounding us, what do we have to lose? Jesus wants our greatest good, even though the path ahead looks unfamiliar and uncomfortable. His voice will lead us safely. Abraham flourished beyond his wildest dreams. So can we!
God bless you all!