It appears as though I have been living with a misconception. For some reason I was under the impression that sheep were dumb animals. It turns out they are actually very intelligent.
Did you that they have very impressive cognitive ability and just like humans, they form deep and lasting bonds with each other, they stick up for one another in fights, and they grieve when they lose a friend. They also have wonderful memories! They can remember approximately 50 individuals (other sheep or human!) for years at a time.
The reason for the mini lesson on sheep is today’s gospel reading.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Clearly, we are the “sheep” that He was talking about and I wasn’t sure that I liked being compared to a short furry animal. Knowing what I know now really does not make me feel that much better but at least I don’t feel any worse.
Why couldn’t we have been compared to the family dog? That’s a little bit better. Loyal, loving, dedicated … all good qualities that describe our family dog. We could even change the Gospel to say, “My dogs hear my voice: I know them and they follow me.”
While that’s a little bit better, I’m not sure that that I want to be referred to as a dog. Plus, while I mentioned all of those good things about our dog you will notice that a good listener is not one of them. Our dog does not listen and if I did not have a firm hold on his leash, he probably wouldn’t follow me to the end of the block. That change to scripture was not such a good idea after all.
So, what would be so wrong with just changing “sheep” to “my people”?
“My people hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Isn’t that better? No one gets their feelings hurt, it is simple and to the point, but there is one problem … do we really hear his voice? There have been amazing speakers through out the ages; Thomas Aquinas, John Newman, St. Augustine and they seemed to hear His voice, but did we hear their voices.
We can all be 100% convinced that the Holy Spirit talks to us all the time; 24/7, 365 days a year. You are probably thinking to yourselves, nudging the person next to you, “hey, did you hear that Deacon Ed hears voices, in his head, all the time.” But that is the problem, I said that He talks to us 24/7 but many of us only hear Him for a small part of that time. And that is the other problem. We might hear Him part of the time but we only seem to listen to Him for an even smaller part of that. We might hear him constantly, but do we listen?
Does that make sense? We see a person over there needing help, the Holy Spirit is talking, we hear him, but we don’t always listen. That would mean going out of our way and helping. We see a beautiful sunset, the Holy Spirit is talking, we hear him, but do we listen long enough to actually say “thank you Lord, back at you.
A couple of members from our communities had the opportunity to attend the Diocesan Convocation this past week. There were amazing speakers, who presented on topics that ranged from “The Amazing things that God has done for us”, to “Listening to the Holy Spirit”. After each presentation we would break into small groups and share our perspectives and experiences. After our four days together one thing was abundantly clear, one thing that came through every topic, every presentation, and that was that God deeply loves each one of individually, uniquely, and totally. There was no doubt, there was no uncertainty, there was no hesitation. That was our fundamental truth, our overpowering take-away.
“But you don’t know me, you don’t know how undeserved I am” … it doesn’t matter He loves you. “But I have done some bad things, I have hurt some good people” … it doesn’t matter He loves you. “That may be true for you, but that can’t be true for me” …. Yes, it can, and he does loves you.
The reason that we are unsure, or hesitant is that we are not listening. Because if we were listening, we would know that he is telling us this every day, every hour, every minute. This is the overwhelming message of Easter. HE IS RISEN means HE LOVES YOU. He didn’t rise because he had some place to go, He rose because he loves you. He did not allow the crucifixion because he didn’t have anything better to do that Friday, he died because He loves you. He did not walk on this earth, and eat what we eat, and sleep like we sleep because he wanted the tee shirt, he came down to earth because he loves you.
This is not something that we have to spend a lot of time thinking about, it is something that we know.
Sheep follow their shepherd because they know. They know that with Him they are safe. They know that with Him they are going the right way.
There is an interesting thing about my dog, he knows when I am upset. When I am doing projects around the house, he knows when I am frustrated, he knows when I hit my hand with the hammer, he knows when things don’t go the way that I was planning. I don’t have to look at him, I don’t have to say a word, he just knows.
Even though the Holy Spirit is talking to us all the time, we should not need for him to say that He loves us, we should just know.
“We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”
“No one can take [us] out of [the Lord’s] hand.
My Father, who has given [you] to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take [you] out of the Father’s hand.”
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
He is Risen, He Loves You
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
May 8, 2022
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