The early Church depicted Christ as a young shepherd lovingly caring for his sheep. In today's Gospel of John we find this image once more. Christ, the Good Shepherd, is the one who lays down his life for his sheep. This is in contrast to the hireling who abandons the sheep, leaving them prey to the dangers at hand.
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter we are reminded that it is Christ, who knows each one of us, and that knowing gives us new life. He knows us and he knows the Father whose love He shares with us. This echoes the great command to love God and love our neighbor.
But here the knowing of which Christ speaks is one that binds us together. All those who hear his voice are drawn in unity to that one flock that knows the one true Shepherd. Our knowing Christ makes us one. We are no hirelings.
The first reading, from Acts, similarly presents this theme of knowing. Knowing the power of Christ's name at work in our world is what Peter preaches, knowing that Jesus Christ is the keystone.
But there is a twist. Peter wants us to know the danger, that of rejecting Jesus Christ in our lives. As Christ knows us and loves us, we for our part, can ignore and refuse to acknowledge Christ in our lives.
Most of us would be horrified to think of ourselves as rejecting Christ, of abandoning our faith. But there are other lesser ways in which we reject Christ as the keystone of our life. The truth is we do grow dim in our knowing the light of Christ. In our busy life we forget all too often. We neglect to set time aside in prayer, or attend a class or a retreat, or read a book or article on the Christian life.
These are all ways to grow in our knowledge of Christ that we take for granted. Other people too help us to know Christ in our life. Who are the women and men in your life that show you the face of Christ? Do we recognize how Christ is present to us even now? It may be a parent or grand-parent that showed you the love of Christ. For many of us our list will include a priest, or a sister, or a brother.
They have all been women and men who heard the voice of the Good Shepherd and shared that voice with us in our lives. Their vocations help us to grow in knowing Christ. That is why this Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, is in many diocese, a day designated as 'Vocations Sunday', God's calling in our lives.
Clearly each of us, as a Christian, has a calling that was born from the font of our baptism. Sadly, we may take this vocation as a Christian for granted. If so, we need once again to hear the Shepherd's voice calling to us amid our daily concerns and the loud drone of all our activities.
The vocation to marriage, with its unique call to parenthood, takes on its richest meaning when we, as spouse or as family, together hear God's word in our lives. When we make time together in worship at Mass, or at prayer in our homes we hear the Shepherd's call in our hearts. However, today when the clamour of this world rejects Christ, how do people hear God's call, that unique sense of who I am in God's heart?
If you hear God speaking to your heart don't ignore such gentle voices. I don't believe that God suddenly stopped calling people to a religious vocation. Rather, today we so easily put God on hold.
You might be into the start of your career and still a voice speaks to you. God calls us, but we for our part, must hear his voice. Don't reject the cornerstone of your life, don't refuse Christ's calling for you. Explore and discover if a religious vocation is part of you.
At the end of the day, listening to this call is not wasted time. For the early Church the image of the youthful Christ shepherding his flock was an image of hope, let that same hope be yours. Hear the Shepherd's voice speaking to your heart.