Are you wiser than a sheep?
This Sunday, the fourth of Easter, is traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the readings focus on how Our Lord is the Good Shepherd Who will lead us, the sheep, to eternal life. In today’s Gospel He says, “I am the gate of the sheepfold” (John 10:7). Notice He did not say there are many gates or that He was a gate. He said He was the gate. In other words He is the one and only true path to God. As He said later on, “No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6).
When Our Lord was on earth, expectations of the coming of the Messiah were great. There had been many false Messiahs and Our Lord warned they would continue to come. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand; so, if they say to you, ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:24-26). Well they did come and they led millions astray. We have a similar problem today with numerous erroneous philosophies and ideologies which seek to engage us and lead us away from God, away from JESUS the true and authentic Shepherd. And rather than resist them we so often embrace them, and instead of rebuking them, we rebuke the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd and that of His Church.
Apparently, sheep are a lot cleverer than we generally give them credit for. Different shepherds will often bring their sheep into the same area at night and they get mixed up. How do they sort themselves out? I have it on good authority that shepherds name their sheep and use particular voices to call them. Then in the morning, the shepherd will go to the gate and summon his sheep with his particular voice, and those that recognise it will come to him. “The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out.” (John 10:2-3).
So the question is, are you wiser than a sheep? A sheep instinctively knows his master’s voice and will flee any other. It seems we are not as clever as they, because so often, when we hear the voice of the true Shepherd, Christ, rather than drawing closer to Him and listening for more, we go off and listen to the voices of the “thieves and brigands” who are the enemy (John 10:8). Look around you and see the chaos and unhappiness in the world today in the form of materialism, secularism, sexual promiscuity and confusion, the destruction of the family and the pure arrogance, in which we think that we in the twenty-first century are far more enlightened than our forefathers.
No, we are not more enlightened. We must listen and pay attention to the voice of JESUS the Good Shepherd. He alone is the path to everlasting joy and happiness. “I am the gate. Anyone who enters through Me will be safe … I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
Fr Paul Gillham, IC