Good Shepherd

Are We Following the Right Voice?

by Father Brian J. Soliven on Sunday April 21, 2024

On the front cover of our amazing church bulletin is the oldest surviving painting of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The 3rd century art is found in the dark labyrinth of tunnels that run for miles beneath the city of ancient Rome, where our early Christian ancestors buried their loved ones. It shows Jesus as a young man, surrounded by three goats. He carries one on his shoulders as he feeds the other two. It’s not by accident the family chose precisely this scene to paint on the tomb of their beloved dead. Death is terrifying, confusing, confounding, and utterly heart-wrenching. As hard as we try to prolong our life and wish this pain were not so, the breath-stopping reality eventually arrives, always sooner than expected. This is why we need Jesus Christ. The world needs the Good News of the Church, boldly proclaimed and lived. 

Our precious Lord tells us in this Sunday’s Gospel passage, “I am the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me…” (cf. John 10:11-18). If indeed this is true, that Jesus is the shepherd, then we must follow him. The Christian is happily one of these goats that listens to the voice of Jesus Christ. One of the hardest parts of being a goat is trusting in the shepherd's voice when he leads us to places we do not want to go. Christianity is a total reorienting of one's moral life. We can longer behave like the rest of the world who do not believe. The faithful goat follows wholeheartedly the commandments of God, most especially in the challenging aspects of the Church’s teachings. A recent convert to the Church once said that one proof that shows him the Catholic Church is the true church established by Christ, is our stance on sexual morality. If the Church changes her teachings to conform to today’s modern everchanging view of human sexuality, she has stopped listening to the voice of the shepherd. If the Church holds firm, it reinforces the Church’s divine origin.  

Every departure from Christ's teachings is ultimately rooted in mistrust. Every time I sin, I choose not to follow because I believe my happiness will be found in doing my own will. It’s the same rational Adam and Eve used when they ate of the fruit of good and evil (cf. Genesis 2:17). But we all know this road never leads to the deeper peace and joy we all search for. I dare say, only in following the Good Shepherd will we finally find true fulfillment. But to reach this nourishing pasture, we must first trust Jesus Christ. After all, he has proved his goodness to us in the most radical and beautiful way, has he not? “I will lay down my life for the sheep,” he tells us (cf. John 10:18). Jesus dies for you and I. If he’s willing to do that, why should I doubt his plan for me?