4th Sunday of Easter (Fr. Simham)
Can you hear the sound of the Good Shepherd’s voice
Because God is so far beyond human comprehension, when he has to be referred to, Bible often used images to talk about God. Even Jesus used images to talk about God the Father. These images were often drawn from the daily life. One of such familiar images is the imagery of “Good shepherd.”
David who himself was a shepherd before he was anointed king used this imagery to perfection to talk about the loving care and protection of God. In Psalm 23 he says:
“The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit. Even if I should walk through the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear; for you are there with your crook and staff to protect me….”
Out of his own experience as a pastor, David beautifully portrayed the loving affection and protection of God as a good shepherd.
Later on, it became one of the familiar images to talk about God. Prophet Isaiah in his great passage on comfort sees the LORD God “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (Isaiah 40:11). And Jeremiah cried, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock” (31:10).
Along with that, we also can observe that the leaders and kings God chose were also considered as shepherds to mean that they were suppose to be like shepherds to the people. In fact Moses their great leader was a shepherd. And David was also a shepherd. And God said to David
“So now, say this to my servant David: ‘This is what the Lord of hosts says: “I took you from the pasture and from your work as a shepherd to make you a leader of my people Israel” (2 Samuel 7:8). As the time progressed we see that the so called shepherds of Israel, growing increasingly careless and selfish and God denouncing them. The Lord says, “The leaders of my people are sure to be judged. They were supposed to watch over my people like shepherds watch over their sheep. But they are causing my people to be destroyed and scattered. (Jeremiah 23:1)
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep from their hand. I will make them stop feeding sheep; ……. (Ezekiel 34:10) So he says that he is going to take over his people and He is going to be their shepherd. “I shall lead them out of the nations, and gather them from their countries; I shall bring them to their own land and tend them on the mountain of Israel………I shall feed them with good pastures……….I myself shall be the shepherd of my sheep…… (Ezekiel 34:11-16)
Against this background Jesus declares in today’s gospel that he is the ‘Good Shepherd’ promised. He is different from others whom he calls as ‘hired-men.’ Hired-men work for money. When it comes to choice between life and money. They choose life. And they don’t risk their life for money. Whereas for a shepherd or good shepherd, sheep are his own or they are his life; so he is ready to risk his life.
And he also speaks about his relationship with the sheep and the sheep’s relationship with him. What is their relationship? I know my sheep and my sheep know me. It is that intimate knowledge of each other. God from his part has carved out their names on the palm of his hand. He knows his sheep each one by name. And his sheep know him. They hear his voice. There may be hundred and one people shouting but they can clearly hear the voice of their shepherd when he calls. It is like a toddler playing in the park who can recognise his mother‘s voice instantly. There may be many people talking and yelling. He can pick of that particular voice of his mother from all the other voices. You know why? It is because of the relationship he has with his mom. So also the sheep when they are grazing they may be hearing many voices but when their shepherd calls out with a particular voice of his own they follow him. They know him and they know his voice.
Friends, this should be the relationship between Jesus our shepherd and us. In the midst of the hustles and puzzles of daily life, we need to be able to hear the voice of the Good shepherd. We live in a world where we hear so many voices calling out in different directions. Everything seems to be attractive. In the midst of all these, are we able to hear the voice of the good shepherd calling us to follow him? Our ability to hear his voice depends on our relationship with him. Dear ones voice is easy to recognise than the stranger’s voice. Is it not? How close are you to the Good shepherd? Let us ask ourselves.
Fr. Showreelu Simham