My Sheep Hear My Voice

thumbnail17To nourish ourselves with the Word in order to be “servants of the Word” in the work of evangelization:  this is surely a priority for the Church at the dawn of the new millennium.  Even in countries evangelized many centuries ago, the reality of a “Christian society” which, amid all the frailties which have always marked human life, measured itself explicitly on Gospel values, is now gone.  Today we must courageously face a situation which is becoming increasingly diversified and demanding….Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to a “new evangelization.”  I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost.  We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out:  “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (I Cor.9:16).  This passion will not fail to stir in the Church a new sense of mission, which cannot be left to a group of “specialists” but must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God.  Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep Him for themselves, they must proclaim Him.  A new apostolic outreach is needed, which will be lived as the everyday commitment of Christian communities and groups….Christ must be presented to all people with confidence.  We shall address adults, families, young people, children, without ever hiding the most radical demands of the Gospel message, but taking into account each person’s needs in regard to their sensitivity and language, after the example of Paul who declared:  “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Cor.9:22).    -Bd. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Inuente

The important passage above, shared by Magnificat as a Meditation for the Feast of St. Mark, makes it clear just what we, members of St. Francis Parish in the tiny group of islands called the San Juans are about, even now, as we faithfully study the Gospel of St. John during this Year of Faith, 2013.  We are approaching the Scriptures anew, gaining deeper understanding of God’s written Word, and placing ourselves before the Living Word, Jesus Christ, hoping to encounter Him in a fresh and powerful way.

Jesus’ description of His relationship with those who belong to him, in John 10:4,5, is something worth dwelling upon, because all that He says in the rest of the chapter relates to this:  “…the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him…”   Notice that the first  use of the Greek word akoloutheo (to follow) is in the present tense; the second use of the word, referring to the stranger, is in the future tense.  This little fact holds within it a very important truth about normal Christian discipleship, I believe:  when we follow the voice of Jesus in the present, the now, day after day, we become very sensitive to the alien voices which continually try to gain our attention.  Often these alien voices are heretical (contrary to the truth, off-center), either subtly or blatantly so.  And being sensitive and alert to the heretical voices means that we will not in the future, near or distant, be deceived and harmed.  Verses 27-30 enlarge upon this reality, this promise from the heart and mouth of the Lord.  If you read these verses along with Deuteronomy 32:39; Wisdom 3:1; and Isaiah 43:13, what Jesus is claiming becomes quite clear.

A short Bible study, in which we would look at a number of other verses about following Jesus well (see Matthew 8:19,22;  10:37-39;  11:28-30; 16:24,26;  Mark 10:21;  15:40,41;     John 1:43;  12:26;  13:36;  21:19-22)  is something worth doing.  A consistent and challenging picture of discipleship becomes clear, in looking at these passages all at once.  If we add to these verses others which speak about abiding, such as John 6:56;  8:31;  15:4-10;  I John 3:15;  and II John 2 and 9, we are able to deepen our understanding even more.

Finally, a couple of brief explanations from the Ignatius study guide to make things in verses 31-42 a bit clearer:  The verse Jesus quotes in 10:34, “….I said, You are gods…” comes from Psalm 82, a prayer for the Lord to punish the corrupt shepherds of Israel.  These leaders, who are charged with teaching and enforcing divine Law, are called “gods” by the Psalmist because of the divine authority they wield over the people.   And, Jesus speaking about Himself as the one “whom the Father consecrated…” (v. 36) resonates against the background of the Feast of Dedication, which celebrates the consecration of the Second Temple by the Maccabees (I Mac. 4:48), like the consecration of its predecessors (Numbers 7:1 and I Kings 9:3).  These sanctuaries of old are replaced by the new and consecrated temple of Jesus’ body (John 2:20,21).

thumbnail23Yesterday, an amazingly warm April 25, my husband Brian and I took an afternoon walk from our home towards Cattle Point and the Lighthouse overlooking the Strait.  We ambled off on a trail leading to the shore of Cattle Pass, and saw, just beyond the rocky edge, what we believe was a flotilla of grebes, still doing some winter fishing together.  What amazed us was how closely they remained together, like a particularly intimate large flock, floating, diving, and emerging in a kind of natural synchronization–something we had never observed before.  It occurs to me that if we on the edges of San Juan Island don’t see a lot of sheep, we can probably get a close picture of what Jesus is imaginatively painting for us in John 10 by thinking about that wonderful flotilla of grebes, staying together, listening to His directions, and fishing.

I look forward to seeing many of you on the ferry next Wednesday morning, May 1.  The outlook is for some sunshine again!  Blessings, JC