Feast of the Dedication
In biblical times sheep represent the chief wealth and the total livelihood of the people. Sheep provide them of the food to eat (1Sam 14:32), milk to drink (Is. 7:21-22), wool for the weaving of cloth (Lev 13:47-48), medium of exchange (Ez 27:18-19) and figure centrally in the sacrificial system (Ex 20:24),” (from the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 315). And so not surprisingly, therefore, in the Bible, references to sheep occur more than 500 times.
A flock of sheep, a shepherd is assigned and every morning the shepherd calls forth again his own flock in order to lead them to pasture. Upon hearing the familiar voice of their shepherd, they follow him and him alone. They are afraid to follow an unfamiliar voice. That is why in today’s gospel passage Jesus clearly uses this Palestinian custom of sheep-calling by the shepherd of the flock. He says: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me,” (v. 27).
But as His sheep, how can we know we hear His voice and follow Him? Especially that today we hear so many voices that are calling us: the voice of secularism and consumerism that make us to become more materialistic; the voice of our political leaders that want us to patronize them in order to make them more popular and so on and so forth. But Christ, as the Good Shepherd, speaks to us in many ways and on many occasions. But there are two great ways which are very clear and recognizable; two ways that the Church herself points out to us according to the 365 Days with the Lord 2007:
First is through the sacred liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium (or the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) no. 7 of the Second Vatican Council teaches us the following truth: “(Christ) is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church.” For example, the words of Christ just read a few minutes ago at the reading of the gospel were actually spoken simultaneously both by the priest (His words were audible to your ears) and by Christ (His voice was audible to your hearts, if you were disposed to listen to Him).
Second is through our conscience. Again we have the assurance of the Second Vatican Council that this is so. Gaudium et Spes (or the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) no. 16 teaches us: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment… For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
But can we personally recognize Jesus in our personal lives too? We can personally recognize Jesus if we listen to and then obey Him. You know, the Hebrew word for listen is ‘Shema.’ But the Hebrew word also for obey is ‘shema’ too. Therefore we can say that to listen to Him is not only to hear, to know and to understand. For the Jews and Jesus is a Jew too, to listen is to obey Him. Fr. Bobby Titco, in his homily, said that for us Christians and disciples of Jesus, we listen not merely for the sake of knowing. We listen in order to obey. We listen to Jesus because we want and mean to obey Him.
At the end, Fr. Titco continued, that listening needs not only with our ears to hear and our minds to understand, listening needs more than our hearts to ponder with. Listening demands our whole self.