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MONDAY HOMILY: Is the Good Shepherd Calling You?

By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
April 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As shepherd, Christ guides and protects his flock. "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice" (John 10:3-4).

CATHOLIC ONLINE (Sugar Land, TX).   Before the Edict of Milan in 313, it was illegal to profess the Christian faith in the Roman Empire.  Many Christians were imprisoned, suffered loss of property and even put to death because they refused to renounce Christ. 

Since Roman law forbade burials inside the city walls, these early martyrs were interred in one of the many underground cemeteries, known today as the catacombs.
 
Many catacombs were adorned with Christian symbols and artwork.  Among these was the image of the Good Shepherd.  Depicted as a young man carrying a sheep across his shoulders, this image of Christ hearkened back to the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, wherein Jesus calls himself the "Good Shepherd."
 
As shepherd, Christ guides and protects his flock. "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice" (John 10:3-4).
 
Using our imagination, we can enter into this scene and contemplate what it means to be a sheep in Christ's care.  The first thing we notice is that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name.  Although they are part of a larger group, the Shepherd deals with each of them individually and personally, calling each sheep by a name that the Lord knows well. 
 
So many people have trouble remembering names!  The fact that Christ calls us by name indicates how thoroughly he knows us and how close he wants to be to each of us.  In God's eyes, we are not anonymous parts of a nameless crowd.  Each of us is important to the Lord, who extends special attention to everyone.
 
We also notice that the Good Shepherd not only gathers his flock into one fold, but that, after having gathered them, he leads them out into the wider world.  Clearly, the Lord does not call us to be isolated from others. 

Nor does he give us the gift of faith as an escape from the world.  Instead, our union with Christ equips us to be leaven in the world, spreading his sweet fragrance to ever corner of our existence.
 
"Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation [and] they have the right and duty. to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 900).
 
Returning to the Gospel image, we see that the Good Shepherd leads his sheep.  Membership in the flock of Christ entails our active following of the one who has called us.  We are not left to wander aimlessly, seeking our own way in the world without any guidance or help.
 
Christ has given us the Church to act in his stead as shepherd and guide. The Church does not replace Christ, but is the instrument that he instituted to transmit the grace of salvation to the world.  "The Church is the Body of Christ. she lives from him, in him, and for him; he lives with her and in her" (Catechism, nos. 805, 807).
 
The sheep of Christ's flock are able to follow him because "they recognize his voice" (verse 4).  There are so many voices that compete for our attention, not the least of which is our own imagination and ego!  We need a spirit of discernment in order to distinguish the voice of Christ from whatever else clamors for our attention.
 
Just as modern communication technology can distort a person's voice, a heart that is not focused on the Lord may lose its capacity to hear Christ.  Repentance of heart and conversion of life clear out the debris that interferes with our interior hearing. 

The sacrament of Penance is a particularly effective means of attuning our hearing to the voice of the Lord.  Let us not be afraid to use it, so that we might follow the Good Shepherd with greater energy and joy.

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Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

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