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Finding the Lost Sheep

April 26, 2015

A reflection for the 4 Sunday of Easter, Cycle B. The readings are Acts 4:8-12, Psalm 118, 1 John 3:1-2 and John 10:11-18.

I don’t own sheep nor do I know the first thing about sheep. But I do own a dog.

Have I told you about our dog? We own a 9-year-old, 85lbs, blond, golden retriever by the name of Max. And Max knows my voice. Max hears my voice. If I say, “Max come,” he comes. If I say, “sit,” he sits. “Lie down,” he lies down. If I say, “Max stay,” he stays… most of the time – at least for a little bit. If some food falls on the floor and I say, “Max leave it!” he leaves it. Max hears my voice very well… when we’re inside the house. If he’s in the yard and I call him, he probably will come, eventually. But if I whistle, he comes right away, because he knows that a whistle means he’s going to get a treat. Our hope is that if he’s ever off running down the street, we can whistle and he’ll come straight home. It hasn’t happened yet. If Max were out in the field or in a forest, it’s likely that, if I call him home, he won’t come – not immediately anyway. Now, if I were to bring Max into Church one Sunday and I called him, I’m pretty sure that he would not come. Not with 300 new people to smell and say hello to. There are just too many distractions that are more interesting than me. See, Max knows my voice; he hears my voice; but he doesn’t always listen.

In the time of Jesus people didn’t have dogs as pets. But some people had sheep. We think of these shepherds with 50 or maybe 100 sheep, but in truth, these shepherds more likely had about 1000 sheep. I’ve read that sometimes there’d be 6 or 7 shepherds who, at the end of the day, bringing their sheep back to the sheepfold, would stop at the same watering hole. So you’d have 6000 sheep all mingling and mixing in the same place. But the shepherds would not worry about losing a sheep, because when they were done, they’d each whistle, call or click or make whatever noise the sheep would recognise, and each sheep would simply go and follow their shepherd.

I think the message today could be that we need to be more like sheep and less like my dog, Max.

Jesus says today that He is the Good Shepherd and that his sheep listen to his voice. I think that if we truly listened to Jesus’ voice, we would discover two things:

First we would discover that He is God. This was really clear to the Pharisees. That’s why they wanted to kill him. Remember the reading about Jesus healing the man born blind? (4th Sunday of Lent, Year A) Remember that the man says, “I don’t know who he is; all I know is that I was blind but now I see”? (John 9:1-41) Today’s Gospel is a continuation of that story. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “You think this man was blind? Well, you’re blind.” Of course, they don’t like that very much. Jesus then says that He is the Good Shepherd. He’s implying that they, who are the leaders of the people, should be good shepherds, but they’re not. He instead, is the Good Shepherd and He takes care of His sheep. The Pharisees would have understood perfectly what Jesus was saying. For Jews, “shepherd” was an image of God: Remember “The Lord is my shepherd…” (Psalm 23) and “Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms…” (Isaiah 40:11). Later on he says, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) The Pharisees then want to stone him and he asks, “for which good work are you going to stone me?” (’cause he had just healed the blind man) They say, “We’re not stoning you for doing good works, but for saying that you are God.” They understood him perfectly. If we listen to the voice of Jesus, we will recognise him as God.

The second thing you will discover if you listen to the voice of Jesus is that if He is God that means that you can know him. We spoke about this last week. You can know Jesus; He’s alive; He’s real. You can know him just as you can know me. Today Jesus says that He knows his sheep and his sheep know him. And later on he says that if you know him you will know the Father. God is not a god sitting on a throne up in the clouds somewhere. He is not an energy source; he is not the Force from Star Wars; God is a personal God who wants to know you and to be known by you. He also loves you and will die for you. The Good Shepherd not only keeps the sheep safe, but he lays down his life for his sheep. It is the Good Shepherd who saves us – which is what Peter tells the Sanhedrin in the first reading: “salvation comes only through the name of Jesus Christ.” But that was the problem with the Pharisees (and the Sanhedrin): They didn’t recognize Jesus.

In the first reading from Acts, Peter tells the Sanhedrin that Jesus is the cornerstone that the builders rejected. They didn’t recognise him and so they rejected him. In the second reading from the first Letter of John, we hear that “the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” I’d like to suggest that the reverse is also true: the reason we do not know Him is because we don’t know each other.

And I don’t mean each other sitting in Church. I mean each other outside of Church. If we are having problems recognising the voice of Jesus, perhaps it’s because we are not listening to him in the voice of the voice-less. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go into a building and stay there praying. He told them to go and make disciples of all nations. We don’t come to Mass every Sunday so we can be nourished and feel good about ourselves. We come to be nourished and be turned into disciples, so we can go out there and make more disciples!

Jesus says in the Gospel today that he has other sheep that are not in this flock. We need to go out there and find them. Don’t be afraid to go and bring “salvation” to the needy, the marginalised, the disabled, the lonely, those suffering from addiction and disease. Pope Francis keeps reminding us to go to the peripheries. Who are the people who live in the peripheries of your community? Go and find them.

Today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we traditionally pray for our shepherds; our deacons and priests, our bishops and the Pope. We also pray for vocations to the ordained life. We need more shepherds. But today, can I suggest that we also pray that we are not afraid to help our shepherds in their job of shepherding. Let’s go out there and help find the lost sheep. When we do, listen to them and you will hear the voice of God.

From → English, Reflections

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