Hearing The Good Shepherd, a homily

Homily, May 05-11-2014: Cycle A, 4th Sun of Easter (Hearing the Good Shepherd)  

On behalf of Msgr. Kenneally and the Parish Staff, I’d like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers, Grandmothers, Godmothers, Stepmothers or anyone offering maternal love to families everywhere.

In the midst of a society, becoming more and more secular as time goes by, even the hardest hearts still gratefully remember mom and all she did for them over their lifetime.

Mothers have that unique gift that enables them to love us, no matter what – ‘Warts & All’, as the saying goes. Even a mom that we think fell short or couldn’t be as present as we needed them to be, still loved us immeasurably. Moms probably come as close to Agape or ‘God love’ as any other human can for us.

They are so invested in their child that they have the ability to know what’s best for that child even in later years, and many of us wish we had listened to mom more closely when she offered her advice.

Because a mother carries her child inside her body for so long, we are told that the child learns the sound of her voice, even the sound of her heartbeat.

Young infants like to snuggle close to mom to listen to those familiar sounds. It makes them feel secure.

When a group of small children is playing together, they can hear their mom’s voice over all the other moms. Well, that is, at least until they get older, then they try to ignore it. Every woman knows that every little boy gets more & more hard of hearing the older he gets – stone deaf by the time he marries.

All that having been said, I think today’s Gospel is especially poignant for Mother’s Day.

In the Gospel from St. John, we hear Jesus tell His followers that sheep hear the voice of their shepherd as He calls them by name. The good Shepherd image…

In those days & still even in parts of the world today, as shepherds approached a town with their flock, it was the custom to lead their sheep into a sheepfold for safekeeping. All the sheep from all the shepherds went in the same protected area.

That gave the shepherd a chance to go into town and buy provisions and perhaps a bath and a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, all the shepherds would gather around the railing of the sheepfold and begin to call their sheep by name or perhaps, even sing to them. Since they recognized his voice, they would gather close to him, to be led out.

So here, we have Jesus, in effect, I think, graphically sharing with us that He wants us to be so close to Him in our relationship, that we clearly recognize His voice.

He wants us to know His voice like the sheep know the voice of their shepherd or like a small child recognizes the voice of its mother.

Since He no longer walks the earth among us, how do we hear His voice today? That’s the $64,000 question. We have to have other ways besides audible.

Henri Nouwen, priest & prodigious spiritual author, gives us ways in some of his books. We use some of his material in our RCIA classes.

He says there are external ways to hear the Lord and internal ways to hear the Lord.

As an example of an external way, Nouwen lists “Scripture” as the Word of God written down though, through the filter of man. While we should be leery of being overly literal as we read it, still it can give us a sense of His desires for us.

He adds listening to “Other People”, especially people we have every right to believe & respect. What do they suggest to us? Who is at the top of that list?  Mom!

Nouwen includes being aware of “Circumstances” as a way to hear God speak to us. All of us have experienced that “One door closes and another door opens”. Or, the phone rings just as we are about to make a decision from someone who has no clue what we are dealing with, yet they have a word for us that helps us with our decision.

As a few internal ways of hearing the Lord, Nouwen suggests:

Our minds, our reason, our common sense, gifts that God has given to us to use to help us along our way.

Our memories, what is our history, what did God say to us the last time this came up. “Déjà vu- all over again.”

Our emotions, how do I feel about this when I consider doing a certain thing a certain way. Am I peaceful?

Our wills, though surely not sanctified, what are my righteous desires. Scripture says that God gives us every good desire.

Our imaginations, again, we have all said things like, “In the back of my mind I somehow knew the right thing for me to do”. Or, “I heard that still, small voice”.

Often we mistrust the internal ways because we think that if we thought of it, then it can’t be from God. Not true!

People have always wanted to communicate with their creator. Our creator has always wanted to communicate with us. The channels of communication are imperfect at best, because we walk by faith & not by sight. We are to be a faith-filled people walking in faith with our creator.

To do that effectively takes time. It is not easy. It’s a learned response. We have to spend time seeking the presence of God in our lives, in multiple ways. We need that equivalent of those nine months where we learn what He sounds like…

But, then we need to ‘touch base’ periodically to maintain that relationship & keep that ability to hear His voice so that we can recognize it over the din, the noise & confusion that fills everyday life.

If you are not happy with the way your life has turned out, ask Him to show you the changes necessary to put you on the right path once more.

Or, you can do the equivalent and simply go back and “do the thing your mother told you to do in the first place, long ago.”

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