“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Last Sunday, we read Luke’s account of the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the way without knowing it. As we noted, Jesus displayed the depth of his love as the Good Shepherd by not abandoning these two disciples who were already straying away from the fold. No matter what we may be passing through, Jesus sees, He knows, He understands and He is always beside us. In today’s Gospel passage, we hear Jesus say: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him. (John 10:3-4). Jesus is always ahead of us in our journey through life. He goes before us. We cannot hide from Him.
As the Psalmist would say: “Where shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day.” (Psalm 139:7-12). However, it is one thing to be led by a shepherd but a different thing to recognize the presence of the shepherd. This is the problem with many Christians and this brings us to our lessons for today.
Why Am I Afraid?
Fear is like background music constantly playing in our heads as we go through our day. From dawn to dusk, we listen to its rhythm and simply dance to it through our decisions, actions and inactions. The message we constantly get from the world is: “You are on your own. Every man for himself. No one cares.” And so, we allow fear to consume us forgetting that God is with us, that He cares for us and that we are never alone.
Our Psalmist today sings: “Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death, no evil would I fear. For you are with me.” Get this. God does not prevent us from “walking through the valley of death”; He doesn’t stop us from passing through the fire. He makes us go through all of these to teach us that no matter what we face, He deserves our complete trust. Abraham was tested, Job lost all he had, Peter was imprisoned, Paul faced many shipwrecks, virtually all the saints suffered grievously in one way or another. As our second reading today explains, even Jesus suffered but in all of these, we can say with St. Paul that “we are more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37)
Again, God does not suddenly destroy our foes, rather, He keeps them alive so that they can see us eating sumptuously from the table God has prepared for us where our “cup is overflowing.” Stop praying for your enemies to die, as if even without them, you can take care of yourself, pray instead for a deeper awareness of God’s presence in your life. The cure for fear is to never forget that aspect of “for you are with me.”
Whose Voice Do I Follow?
We live not just in a digital but an information-explosion age. There are so many voices today, so many who claim to have all the answers. Go to any social media platform for instance, and you are likely to see a message like “follow me” or “subscribe.” The average social media user today judges their self-worth by the number of followers, likes or views they find on their content. Amidst the social media frenzy that has inevitably become part of our daily lives, it is important for us to step back and ask ourselves: “Whose voice am I following?”
In other words, what kind of content attracts and sustains my attention or dictate my actions? Who/What do I follow online? For instance, some would consider attending a live mass as a waste of data but would comfortably consume pornography all day. We ignore messages about God but never mind watching or producing comedy shows, dance videos and so on even without being data conscious. Whether we like it or not, as Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Do not deceive yourself. The fact that you identify as a Christian does not make you one. In our Gospel acclamation today, we hear Jesus say: “I know my own and my own know me.” (John 10:14)
Jesus goes further to describe Himself as the Door of the Sheep meaning that it is only through Him that we can find our hearts’ desires and needs. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out of pasture.” If we enter by Jesus, there is nothing we shall lack but if we fail to enter by Jesus as our Door of life, we never find green pastures. The devil lures us with a lot of beautiful things but he only seeks to destroy us.
What Must I Do?
After listening to the powerful sermon of Peter wherein he summarized the whole of Scriptures about the life of Christ, the people were caught to the heart and asked: “what must we do?” Having understood now that Jesus is our shepherd who never leaves us alone, this is the question we must now ask ourselves. Something has to change in our lives. There must be a difference from today. As Peter responded: 1.“Repent, and be baptised…” 2. “Receive the Holy Spirit….” 3. “Save yourselves from this wicked generation.”These are the three steps we must also take today. Repent from following the devil, repent from immorality, the blind pursuit of wealth, falsehood, hatred, greed and all that displeases God. As St. Peter tells us in our second reading, Christ suffered for us to leave us an example of how we too must die to sin and live to righteousness.
Secondly, begin a novena to the Holy Spirit if you have not already started. Pray every day for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you to live and walk in the light of Christ. Thirdly, dare to be different from this crooked generation. Do not live by the standards of this world instead, be a light, set a standard for the world. Seek to please God above anything else in all you do.Let us pray: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see that you are always with me and I am never alone, save me from following false shepherds all around me. Amen Bible Study: Acts 2:14-41, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:20-24 and John 10:1-10).