The Good Shepherd
There is nothing like the sound of a friend’s voice, of someone we know and trust. A familiar voice assures us of a familiar presence, someone who is within reach and who can share in our joy or console us in our sorrow. Writing about the mystery of our Lord’s descent into hell and his victory over death, Pope Benedict once drew a comparison to the common experience of being afraid of the dark: “If a child had to venture out alone through the woods on a dark night, he would be afraid even if he were to be shown a hundred times that there was nothing to fear. He is not afraid of anything specific, to which he could put a name, but in the dark, he feels insecure, an orphan, he feels the sinister character of inner existence. Only a human voice could console him; only the hand of a person he loves could banish the anguish, like a bad dream.”
How appropriate that we hear this Gospel passage on Mother’s Day. Jesus compares himself to a shepherd, guiding and protecting us. He promises the sheep of his flock that he will forever hold them securely in his hand. How fortunate we are who have had mothers who have guided us, protected us, loved us, and held us, who have treated us with the tender loving care of the Good Shepherd. Christ’s own passage through death frees us from the fear that we will be abandoned in death.
In this Easter season we rejoice in the certainty that Christ’s voice reaches the dead, calling them to life. “The hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (Jn 5:25, cf. 5:28). On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we take heart and are encouraged by our Lord’s words. When we feel lonely or far from God, we can turn to him in confidence, for he will never abandon us. Lord Jesus, you have risen from the dead and conquered sin. Give us the grace to remain always united to you, in life and in death. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow.
Deacon Peter Smith serves at St. Mary’s/Holy Family Parish in Alabama, a religion teacher at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School in Birmingham, and a member of our Passionist Family.