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Father Muench Says...

Hearing the voice of our Good Shepherd

May 6, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Recently, we, as a Church, celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday.  This image of Jesus, as a shepherd, a good shepherd, is a good image of the relationship that Jesus wants with us, his disciples and followers.

It has been a powerful image used in the Church since the earliest days of our Church.  There are so many good things that this image teaches us.

However, there are some things about the Good Shepherd image that do not seem right.  I think there could be a misconception.

Some may think of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as simply our protector who will do everything to take care of us.  We don’t have to do anything – our Good Shepherd will do all for us.  We just have to bring our list and the Good Shepherd will take care of all.  I believe that the Good Shepherd will watch over and protect us but I believe the Lord does expect that his followers do have something to do. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, calls us and challenges us to do something – to make our lives better and our world a better place.

There is a shepherd story in the Gospels that shows us how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, reaches out to us.
In those days, they say, each shepherd in an area would bring their flock of a sheep to a common pen for the night and they would be guarded all night.  Then each morning, each shepherd would come to this pen to take his own sheep to the fields. 

The Gospel tells us that each sheep would recognize their shepherd, simply by hearing his voice.So, I believe, that each of us will recognize our Good Shepherd by his voice, by his call.  Further, I believe that often, possibly each day, the Lord will call and lead us with a challenge to do something, to help someone, to guide us to make our life even better by doing something for the Lord.  It may not be a call like those shepherds however, in faith, we will recognize the Lord’s call. We will know it is the Lord calling.

So the question today is – “Have you recognized the voice of the Lord in your life, each time he has called to you?”

In many unique ways, the Lord longs to touch us and lead us to bring his love and peace to our world, to those who need us. 

The Lord offers us a life full of opportunities when we listen carefully for his voice.  This is vocation: the Lord calling to us and our recognizing the Lord’s challenges for each of us.

I truly believe that each of us has received many invitations from the Lord.  Often, many would simply call these opportunities coincidences – at the right place at the right time or say the right thing at the right time.  There are no coincidences from the Lord. 

The Lord’s call may be the opportunity to sit down and talk with a son or daughter. The Lord’s call may be the call of a friend in need. The Lord’s call may be the opportunity to make life better for someone, even a stranger.
There is another shepherd story that Jesus uses – his Parable of the Lost Sheep again, demonstrating just what a Good Shepherd is. You know the story. 

A shepherd has 100 sheep and one runs off into the bush and gets lost.  Jesus asks, “What do you think?  Won’t the shepherd leave the 99 to go search for the lost sheep?”

The reality is no, most shepherds would stay with the 99. However, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and in this image he makes it clear that Our Savior, Jesus, will never give up on any of us even if we stray.

I must admit that I didn’t fully understand the parable. I thought I was among the 99 and I wondered why Jesus would leave us to look for a stray. 

Then, as time went by, I recognized that often – too many times - I was the stray so if the Lord wants to leave others to come and search for me, I say, “Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on me.”    

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