The Voices We Listen To

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday

First of all, I want to take this opportunity to, once again, wish all of our mothers, grandmothers, and spiritual mothers a very happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for always caring for us and supporting us in all that we do. I hope that this day is filled with such incredible blessings for each of you.

As I mentioned at the beginning of Mass, today the Church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday, when Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd and we, the sheep, listen to His voice. Throughout the last couple of days, I’ve been reflecting on this image of sheep and shepherd.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but sheep aren’t the smartest of animals. They’re actually pretty stupid. All they have going for them is that they’re fluffy and look like they’d be really warm to cuddle up next to on a cold night…if you can get over the smell of their dirty wool. But sheep need a shepherd. They need direction. They need the voice of the shepherd, otherwise doom is certainly in their future.

In preparing for this weekend’s homily, I came across a story from 2005 out of Turkey about a bunch of sheep dying because they had run off a cliff. According to the story, almost 1,500 sheep jumped off the cliff, resulting in the death of 450 of them. Many of the sheep survived because, as the pile at the bottom of the cliff got bigger, their fall was more padded. But I was curious, what made the sheep run off the cliff? In the interview for the story, the shepherds said that one of the sheep ran off first and the others just followed.

Now, I’ll admit, it’s probably my twisted sense of humor, but I definitely laughed the first time I read that story, imagining the shepherds’ faces and what that huge pile of sheep, one jumping onto it after another must have looked like. I mean, imagine. What dumb animals!

Yet what does Jesus so often call us in Scripture? We are sheep. He is the Shepherd. Isn’t that flattering?

So why does Jesus use the image of sheep to describe us? We are sheep because we, too, are often helpless. If we are going to remain on the narrow path to heaven, we need a shepherd to lead the way. If we are going to be protected against the wolves, we need a shepherd to defend us. If we are going to manage not to fall into group think that would lead us off a cliff, into accepting things or doing things because everyone is accepting them or doing them, we are going to need a shepherd whose voice we know to call us back from the edge.

In our world today, there are so many voices that are seeking to lead us away from the path that Jesus desires for us to walk. All we have to do is turn on the news or scroll through social media to see it. So many voices are seeking to lead us away from the Truth. We hear that we should be able to do whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want, that there are no consequences for embracing ideologies or beliefs that are far from our Christian tradition.

Society is telling us that it is perfectly normal for people to decide their own gender, that it is okay to fight for access to abortion or infanticide, that people who are looking to ease their pain through assisted suicide is morally just, that we should be able to embrace whatever sexual orientation that we desire, that we should be able to participate in sexual promiscuity because it allows us to embrace our authentic and free selves, that using contraception or viewing of pornography is acceptable…and the list goes on and on. These are all voices that are leading us further and further away from the Truth; they are voices that are leading us further and further away from God; they are voices that are seeking to lead us, the sheep, totally off a cliff. And, the sad part, so many of us are buying into it, so many of us are following right along.

Just look at what happened this week with the news of the leak from the Supreme Court regarding the decision about the Dobbs case. (A leak that should have never happened and is only meant to delegitimize our government structures.) Look at how many Christians, look how many prominent Catholic politicians, have come out and said that getting rid of Roe v. Wade would be an abomination. Really?! It would be an abomination to end a precedent that has allowed for millions of unborn children to be murdered? Y’all, I don’t know what Gospel or what Catechism or what teaching of Jesus these Catholics are following, but they certainly aren’t the ones that I know.

So many of us are listening to the wrong voices. And as one of the Shepherds of the Church, it’s my responsibility to call us out when we’re being led astray. If I don’t embrace that responsibility, it will have eternal consequences for me. And as I have said before, I love you all dearly, but I’m not going to hell for any one of you. That’s what’s at stake if I don’t speak up. And parents, that’s also what is at stake for you if you don’t instruct your children in the practice of the faith.

We have to get back to listening to the true Shepherd’s voice. If we don’t, our world is going to be in a much worse place and very quickly. (Yes, it can get worse than it already is.) If we don’t start to listening for the voice of Jesus, if we don’t return to following Jesus in everything we do and truly living our faith, so many of us will end up walking off the cliff and into the eternal fires of hell.

Now that I have scared the living daylights out of all of us…where is the hope? It can be found right here! It starts right here! All we have to do is ask Jesus for help in hearing His voice more clearly. He wants to be in relationship with us. He wants to protect us from the voices that are seeking to lead us astray. He wants to keep us safe from the wolves. He died on the cross for that. And He does that because He loves us. He does that because He wants us to know the Father. The Father, the very Creator of the universe, the One who put the stars in the sky, the One who spoke and it came to be…God Himself desires us. He desires us. He desires you. He desires me. He wants to spend Eternity with us. That’s what this is about.

Throughout this week, I encourage all of us to reflect on what voices we are allowing to lead us. What voices are we listening to? And is it the voice of the Shepherd? Ask the Father as you approach the altar today to receive the Body and Blood of His Son for a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit to be able to discern what is the true voice of the Shepherd. Ask for help in hearing His voice. Recognize that we are sheep, that we need the Shepherd to guide us. Let’s ask the Lord to lead us on the narrow path toward Heaven and to keep us safe from harm all the days of our lives.

Image: Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican ChurchAshfieldNew South Wales. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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