Scripture: John 10:3-4 – The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Reflection: I saw young Beaudoin shepherds tending their flocks on the hillsides of the Judean wilderness during my two trips to Israel. The shepherds were present with the sheep, sometimes walking with the sheep, and sometimes riding a donkey alongside the sheep as the sheep grazed on the stumps of hillside grass. The shepherd and the sheep were together in tranquility, each aware of and comfortable in the other’s presence. A relationship of trust and care between the two was evident.
Sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. The shepherd uses his voice to call the sheep out of their holding pen in the morning, direct them throughout the day to pasture, and to call them back into a safe place for the evening. Whenever a shepherd calls out to his sheep, the sheep that belong to the shepherd know their shepherd’s unique sound and follow wherever the shepherd leads them throughout the day.
The sound of a shepherd’s voice to the sheep is like the sound of a mother’s voice to her child. A Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences research study found that a variety of brain circuits are engaged when children hear their mother’s voice. Whenever a child hears a mother’s voice, brain regions involving emotion and reward processing, social functions, detection of what is personally relevant, and face recognition are powerfully activated. Researches verified that the echo of a mother’s voice has quick access to a child’s many brain systems that bring them emotional comfort.
Jesus says in today’s passage that he is in a life-giving relationship with us and knows us by name. We are able, through spiritual birth, to hear his unique voice and follow him out to wherever he leads. The voice of Jesus has quick access to our thinking, our sensing, and our will. His voice calls us from chaos to order, from darkness to light, from death to life, from fear to faith, for ourselves and whosoever comes to him. His voice calls us to abundant joy and abundant hope.
It takes a mindful intentionality and spiritual sensitivity to hear our Good Shepherd’s voice amid so many competing voices in our world. God has provided us with the means to hear Christ’s voice through worship, prayer, acts of compassionate generosity, mercy, justice, and witness.
We do not always know where Christ our good shepherd will lead us through the promptings and proddings of his life-giving voice, but we know we can trust him, and so we follow with assurance in the comfort of his love and care for us and all.
Prayer – Christ our good shepherd, we pray for a discerning spirit to hear your voice and a will to do what we listen to you say to us amid so many competing voices that seek to have access to our minds, hearts, and will. Enable us with your Spirit to hear your voice and do your will in whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, and in whatever is excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Amen.