Hearing and moving.

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”

Good morning, Church! I am so thankful you have chosen to worship with us this Sunday as we declare: Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday as the fourth Sunday of Easter is always known. We encounter the shortest Gospel concerning the Good Shepherd, only four verses. In other years it is either eight or ten verses. Yet in these four verses we clearly see the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd – the Shepherd Who cares for and protects us, the Good Shepherd Who lives up to His promises and speaks to us.

Last week we heard about Jesus’ feeding of His Apostles by the seaside. He also spoke a command to them, and to us, that we are to feed and tend His flock.

Now, we should take a moment to check in. Did we hear what Jesus asked of us concerning tending and feeding? This is important.

Today’s gospel contains a great promise to all followers of the Christ. Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice!” He does not say we could hear his voice, or we should hear his voice, or we might hear his voice. Rather, Jesus is exceptionally clear that we do hear His voice.

As such, we should always be alert, awake, and ready to act on what God is speaking to us. It may sound strong… but if we are not hearing anything, if all we hear is silence, or if we ignore what we hear, then we are not walking in the Lord’s will. We have placed ourselves outside the sheepfold.

Think of it this way. When our moms called out to us, or call out to us, did or do we hear them? I can tell you from personal experience, when my mom wanted her will done, I could hear her, even down the block. Jimmy, Jimmy… I wanted to bury my head in the dirt, but the call and the request for a response were real. I responded.

That is what the Good Shepherd is saying. We cannot help but hear and if we are within the sheepfold we must then act.

We easily know God’s call to us because His voice is clear, right here in Holy Scripture, in Holy Tradition, in the Holy Spirit guided teaching of the Church. We indeed know God’s will and desire for us.

On top of that, we have the voice of the Holy Spirit we have each received. He leads us to the places He wishes and asks us to carry out the work He needs done: witnessing, serving, evangelizing, and more.

When the Good Shepherd’s voice is stirred in us His words are words of life. Jimmy must get up, get going and do. We all must so we may live in His sheepfold forever.

In
advance.

You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.

God is great at wake-up calls. As personally expert at the snooze button, thanks be that He is eternally diligent with those wake-up calls.

The first to hear the wake-up call were the prophets. Jesus told us that “many prophets and righteous people longed to see [his arrival].” The prophets hearing God’s call took action. The proclaimed what was to come. They set forth, as Isaiah does today, a message of hope, peace, and joy. They lived in urgent and active expectation of what was to come.

We often get impatient in expectation of great things and can, at the same time, snooze. Maybe we snooze as an excuse. If I close my eyes, time may pass more quickly. But that isn’t what God wants of us. It is why He issues constant wake-up calls. He wants us awake and active, living His way and truth.

The anticipation and longing of the prophets, who for thousands of years knew by the Spirit that the Messiah would come, teach us how to prepare our hearts in this season of Advent. 

The prophets kept reminding Israel of their call to prepare and to live faithfully in expectation of the Messiah. Unfortunately, they did not listen and kept falling back. That failure to heed did not play out well.

The experiences of the prophets, their active anticipation, reminds us that Advent can be a season of reflection and repentance as we remember why Jesus came to earth. They teach us to faithfully endure as we await Jesus’s Second Coming. As we wait, let’s remember our waiting is necessary preparation in becoming the people He is forming and transforming us to be – living members of the Kingdom. Use the time wisely.

Paul calls us to active living, realizing what has already happened and what is to come. He calls us to throw off all that holds us back, to be awake and ready.

God is diligent at wake-up calls. He gives us this opportunity of Advent in advance so that we may be prepared. He gave us the first coming of His Son which we will commemorate in a few short weeks, and through that moment He gives us His life and word as model so that awake and active we live as He did and expectant for His return.

I will see
and hear.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

We have reflected on this gospel reading throughout Ordinary Time as it is read during Matins before Holy Mass. Who do we consider a neighbor? Really at the heart of the question, who matters? Jesus quickly answers the questioner: God matters and each and every person matters.

Doesn’t it make us happy and comforted to know that God thinks we all matter? So many try to draw circles around people, those inside, those outside. The good versus the bad, those like me and everyone else. Our lesson – once again, everyone matters.

Setting aside the view of others, and the labels they place, we also have to be careful about how we view ourselves. Sometimes, and likely all too frequently, we are our own worst enemy. We forget our inherent dignity – the goodness of our creation. The fact that God has his laser focus of care on us. We think ourselves less than worthy. Oh, I failed, I’m not good enough, I didn’t meet expectations, I don’t pray, read scripture, reflect on God enough, I sin too much, I fall over and over into habits that are harmful to myself and others. It’s easy to come up with a list of our own shortcomings because we forget God’s view.

God sees, hears and knows everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Does He see where we fall short – sure. Yet, He doesn’t take his gaze from us. When we fully grasp and understand that His eyes are on us, His care is over us, His love and His Son’s sacrifice were for each of us, then we will allow Him to declare our value, and we will see that each and every person matters in the same way.

God does not operate like man. His thoughts and ways surpass that of man. They are way higher. Knowing how God is, we need to step up to see and hear as He does, to live valuing and counting ourselves and all people as those who matter.

We face challenges in this world, the naysayers, the put downers. We may even put ourselves down. As His people, we need to confront that head on with God’s truth, with the fact that He sees and hears and wants it different, “I will surely hear. I will hear; for I am compassionate.

Indeed, our compassionate God sees and hears. No division or label (even our self-labeling) can last before Him. We all matter. Let us take up God’s great commandment, let us live it loving Him and everyone. To live like He does, to be men and women with God’s vision.