Most of us are pretty good at being able to recognize the voices of others. Before Caller ID was invented, we had no idea who was calling. No way of screening our calls. Just had to answer the phone and take our chances. “Hello?” “Hey Ray, how ya doin?” That’s the moment we hope to recognize the voice on the other side of the call, and when we don’t, anxiety sets in. We pretend to recognize the caller and keep the conversation going in hopes that we figure it out. For some reason, we are too embarrassed to admit, “I do not recognize your voice, can you tell me who this is?”
Why is it that we so easily recognize the voice of some, but not others? The answer is no secret. The better we know someone, the more time we spend talking with them, the closer our relationship, the easier it is to recognize their voice even when we can’t see them.
And so it is with a good shepherd who tends his flock. Sheep do not respond to voices that do not belong to the shepherd. The sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd, and they follow. Even though lambs are simple creatures, they are still able to distinguish the voice of their shepherd from all other voices and sounds. Same goes for our family dogs and cats, and just about every other kind of house pet. We are the shepherds of our pets. We feed them, care for them, and protect them against all harm. When they hear the voice of their shepherd, they are filled with joy and come running. Especially when they are hungry.
Speaking of shepherds, today is Good Shepard Sunday, when we consider the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The depiction of Jesus carrying the lamb is one of the most recognized in Christian art. A good shepherd is one who gathers and cares for his flock. He protects them from all harm.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” At its core, Christianity is a relationship with someone…someone who has a voice…that someone is Jesus Christ. Those who believe hear his voice, and we follow him. Well, at least we try to follow him. We tend to drift away. Sometimes we separate ourselves so much that we get lost.
We hear the Shepherd’s voice in the Scriptures during Holy Mass. We hear the Shepherd’s voice when he speaks to us through those friends and family who inspire us to do the right thing, warn us when we are messing up, and encourage us when we fall.
We also hear the Good Shepherd’s voice when our conscious tells us what is right and what is wrong. We call the conscious a voice, an inner voice as though someone is speaking to us. Should I or shouldn’t I? Is my conscious telling me yes or no. Somehow, we know when we respond to that voice, we are either pleasing or offending the one who speaks to our conscious. When I do something morally wrong, I feel as if I’ve hurt someone whom I love…and who loves me.
On the other hand, when I doing something right, or do something good…I get a sense of satisfaction…and I have a sense that I pleased someone I love, and the one who loves me is pleased with the action I took, or the decision I made. In our conscious, we hear the voice of the Good Shephard steering us the right way.
Problem is, that there are so many voices in our lives…so many different points of view…urging us in different directions. Which of these voices belong to the Good Shepherd? Throw social media into the mix…how many more voices are we hearing while staring at our smart phone? Which of these voices are we supposed to follow…whom should we listen to…how do we discern that they voice speaking through my conscious is the voice of Jesus among all these competing voices?
The same way we come to recognize the voices of others. If we want to be able to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, we’ve got to take the time to know him. Daily prayer. Faithful participation in Holy Mass. Learning more about our faith. Living our faith though works of service and charity, mercy and forgiveness. All of these things strengthen our relationship with the Good Shepherd and help us to more easily recognize his voice among the many. When faced with a difficult challenge, when it’s not easy to discern, a basic but effective solution is to ask ourselves – what would Jesus do? – Our sincere search for the answer to that question will lead us to the voice of the Good Shephard.
As the world around us becomes more chaotic, the Good Shepherd is our source of our inner peace. The world is a crazy and scary place right now, but no matter what is thrown our way, just close your eyes and repeat this powerful psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
- If I suffer from Covid or come other illness or disease…the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want
- I lost my job and I’m unemployed… the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want
- I’m grieving the loss of a loved one… the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want
- Abuse or addiction is disrupting the family… the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want
- Our government is incompetence or corrupt… the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want
- The War in Ukraine… the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want
- There seems to be a raging storm all around me… the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want