Shepherd, Sheep, and Strangers
The Good Shepherd calls his sheep by name. The stranger’s voice also calls the sheep to himself. The sheep paying close attention listen for and follow the voice of the good shepherd and disregard the attractive but misleading voice of the stranger. Our world is like a marketplace of competing voices. These mercantile-like voices can be compared to the honey-sweet voice of Homer’s Odyssey singing Sirens, enticing us to purchase various items shoved in our faces. What products do these voices call us to buy? Lies and death, packed in shimmering boxes held together by golden strings. Don’t be mesmerized by the sweet coated tongues of these slimy sirens as Odysseus’ men were before being tricked to their peril by the irresistible singing voices of the mythical Sirens. The voice of the enemy-strangers, the diabolic voice calls us to a place of destruction and atrophy; the enchanting voice calls to diminish and destroy our soul. Let’s be wise to shut out this deceptive voice, do not listen to it.
As St. Peter wrote in his first letter, be on the alert because the enemy is like a roaring lion ready to pounce on you once you listen to the false voices of the devil (cf. 1 Pt 5:8). The Good Shepherd calls his own by name and they follow him. But as it sometimes happens, the sheep fall victim to the pretentious voice of the stranger and is lead astray. When do we go astray? When do we follow strange voices? They are the times we fail to listen to the Shepherd’s voice in the silence of our hearts. There are too many screaming voices in our head and mind inviting us to distractions-to sin and darkness. They come to our souls in different disguises. They are the material culture of our post-Christian world, they are sensuous pleasure in the public places and media, they are the calls to false self-reliance and independence from the so-called “clutch of faith and religion”, they are the selfish cravings for dominance over others, they are the heart-hardening to the Gospel of life similar to the hardening of hearts of Israelites at Meribah, “as on the day at Massah in the wilderness” (Ps 95: 7-8), and they are the other forms of deviation from the voice of love and truth.
Today, we will listen to the Shepherd’s voice. We will find time for silence. We will detach the plugs from our ears from time to time today and listen to the voice calling us to life. Jesus speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures and deep, quiet meditations, he speaks to us in people we meet each day, he speaks to us in the beautiful and sublime things of nature, and he speaks to us even in the tragedies of life like the present pandemics. We only need to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and let his voice speak to us and lead us back to the shepherd and guardian of our souls (1 Pt 2: 25).
Decide today to listen to the true voice of the Shepherd who leads his sheep to abundant life. For a start, may I suggest you commit daily to 10 minutes of silence in the presence of God who dwells in the inner recesses of your soul? Start by inviting the Holy Spirit and give the Shepherd’s voice full control to speak to your mind and soul. By listening to the Shepherd’s voice, we are tied to Christ and prevented from following destructive voices of the evil stranger similar to how Odysseus was tied to the mast of the ship to prevent him from following the seductive and destructive voice of the seductive siren.
Have a Blessed Good Shepherd Sunday.
In Christ, the Good Shepherd,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP