Meditation: How secure is your faith and trust in God? Jesus speaks of the tremendous trust he has in God his Father and the tremendous trust we ought to have in him because he is our good shepherd (John 10:11). What is the significance of Jesus calling himself the Good Shepherd? Shepherds were very common in the land of Jesus' time. A shepherd could have hundreds or thousands of sheep under his care. Sheep without a shepherd were vulnerable prey for predators, such as wolves and thieves. If a sheep strayed from the fold it could easily get lost, fall into a ravine, or become injured. Shepherds had to keep a constant watch over their folds by day and by night. That is why shepherds had to literally live with their sheep so they could lead them out to good pasture for grazing during the day and bring them to a safe place at night for rest and shelter. Shepherds got to know their sheep well and kept a careful count each evening. They also called their sheep by name so the sheep could recognize the shepherd's voice when he called them to follow him.
The Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
God used the image of a shepherd to describe his covenant relationship and care for his chosen people who were called by his name (Psalm 80:1 and 100:3). God called David, who shepherded his father's flock in his youth, to be the anointed king and shepherd for his people Israel (Ezekiel 37:24). Jesus, God's anointed Messiah and King, born from the tribe of David, called himself the Good Shepherd of the people whom his Father had entrusted to his care (John 10:29).
Peter the Apostle tells us that the Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). He keeps a close and personal watch over every one of his sheep - his followers (disciples) who belong to him. He calls each of us personally by name to follow him. And he promises to be our guardian and protector from the snares of our enemy, Satan, the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). The Lord leads us each day to good pastures - places where we can feed on his word and drink from the well-springs of living water which is his Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39, John 4:14). If we feed on his word and drink from the living water of the Holy Spirit, we will find the nourishment and strength we need to live each day for his glory and honor. Do you recognize the voice of your Shepherd and Guardian who calls to you each day?
"My sheep follow me"
Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD), an early church father and theologian, contrasts those who listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd, and those who close their ears to his call.
The mark of Christ's sheep is their willingness to hear and obey, just as disobedience is the mark of those who are not his. We take the word hear to imply obedience to what has been said. People who hear God are known by him. No one is entirely unknown by God, but to be known in this way is to become part of his family. Therefore, when Christ says, 'I know mine,' he means I will receive them and give them a permanent mystical relationship with myself. It might be said that inasmuch as he has become man, he has made all human beings his relatives, since all are members of the same race. We are all united to Christ in a mystical relationship because of his incarnation. Yet those who do not preserve the likeness of his holiness are alienated from him... 'My sheep follow me,' says Christ. By a certain God-given grace, believers follow in the footsteps of Christ. No longer subject to the shadows of the law, they obey the commands of Christ and guided by his words rise through grace to his own dignity, for they are called 'children of God' (Matthew 5:9). When Christ ascends into heaven, they also follow him." (excerpt from the COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 7.1)
The Lord opens our ears to hear his word
The Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, but especially through his word in the Sacred Scriptures. He will open the Scriptures for us if we approach his word with reverence and faith (Luke 24:32). How can we grow in listening to the voice of our Lord and Shepherd? If we ask he will open our ears to hear him speak to our hearts and minds.
"Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord G OD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward" (Isaiah 50:4-5).
And if we hunger for his word, he will give us understanding, wisdom, and guidance for our lives.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path... I rejoice at your word like one who finds great treasure" (Psalm 119:105, 162).
The Lord Jesus wants to draw each of us close to himself. He wants us to be united with him and the Father. That is why he teaches us to pray to our Father in heaven and to ask for his kingdom to reign in our lives (Matthew 6:9-10). The Lord Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts and homes (Revelation 2:20) and waits for our response. Will you answer his call and welcome his presence with you?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. Open my ears to hear your voice and to follow your ways. Give me understanding that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and wisdom for my life.
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/