Deacon Newton’s Homily — 4th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. We all know that Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd and we as his sheep. In the Gospel today Jesus said: “… the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them out … and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” Do we actually hear and recognize the voice of Jesus calling out to us? The real question is, are we actively listening for his voice and do we recognize it when we hear it?

What was our first encounter with a loving caring voice? They say that we first hear our mother’s voice from within her womb. From a warm protective environment our first experience with a voice is associated with love, peace, security and protection. It brings comfort when we hear it. Once we are thrust into the unknown world at birth we cry out, but once cradled in our mothers arms and hearing her familiar voice we settle down knowing that the voice we hear means we are safe and loved. Do we feel the same way regarding our Lord and God?

The world can be a scary place, and we all need a safe place to come home to, a place where we feel the love and warmth we experienced in the womb. Circumstances in life may not always afford us this desire. Look at the people of Ukraine. Literally their homes have been destroyed. So where can they find peace? Does that mean that there is no hope for them? You could say the same thing about the early Christians who were being hunted and persecuted.

But Jesus is offering us something beyond this physical world. He is offering a love and peace that emanates from within. Just as our mother’s voice brought us comfort from the first moment of life, Jesus is offering us a comfort that transcends all things. He is offering us the comfort, love and peace of the voice of God.

If we hear the voice of God, we will find God’s peace not only in the good times but also in all the trials and tribulations of life. There is no money in the world that can buy that type of peace. The funny thing about it is that it is free, a free gift from God.

You might say you have prayed a lot because you want to hear him but it seems like many times in life it falls on deaf ears. Hearing and listening are different. Just because you hear something doesn’t mean you are listening. Listening requires hearing but with thoughtful attention and consideration.

As you go through life you become accustomed to the voices of people close to you. You don’t need to see them to recognize them, you can identify them simple by their voice. You hear their voice which then draws your attention to listen. This is also the goal for us in communicating with God. God knows us personally and communicates with us directly, but we must be ready to listen.

The issue here is a million voices vying for our attention, many are the voices of worldly things. Those voices rob us of life. Those are the voices that Jesus refers to in the Gospel as a thief and a robber but he goes on to say that he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. The shepherd of our soul is a God that walked our walk, which both lived and died for us, and rose from the dead to open the gates of heaven so that we can all join him in the heavenly pasture. Jesus is that voice we should follow.

Now the big question is, how is the voice of God heard today in the midst of all the noise and distractions? We of course talk about striving for a personal relationship with God. We do that through prayer, but prayer takes on many forms. We say our whole life should be a prayer. Whatever we say, think and do should honor God. But what is the source, the foundation of our prayer life. We hear the voice of God through Scripture, the Church, the Saints, the Liturgy, silence, and our conscience.

How do we actively listen so that we hear God’s voice? Remember, it is a personal relationship with God. We need to do our part. We need to spend time with God.

Regarding Scripture; do we read and mediate on the word of God found in the Bible?

Regarding the Church; do we ask questions and try to understand the 2000 years of history where through the Scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church developed its teachings?

Regarding the Saints; do we learn about the life stories of the Saints and how they developed their relationship with God? Many had very difficult challenges in life that we can personally relate to and we can learn from how their faith grew empowering them to overcome their personal life trials.

Regarding the Liturgy; do we go to Mass on a regular basis? We encounter our Lord directly through his Word and physical presence in the Eucharist.

Regarding silence; do we take the time to still the worldly voices that distract us from hearing God’s voice?

Regarding our conscience; do we continually strive to form our conscience to live our lives in a way that always honors God?

When we do this we will find that inner peace that we all strive for. This peace will surround us and embrace us even during the trials in our lives. This peace goes beyond the physical aspects of the world. When we hear our shepherds’ voice, we know we are safe. In rough waters our boat will not sink. We are not spared trials in life, but we know we are not alone when we hear the voice of someone we know who loves us, we find peace in the midst of a very scary world.

Why is that? Because like Jesus on the cross, we put all of our faith in a God that was willing to die for us. That kind of love, to sacrifice your life for someone is a love beyond all imagination. A love we can count on.

Spend the time getting to recognize the voice of God in your life. He is speaking directly to you, you just need to take the time and listen.

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