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May 1981

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10, 3)

To understand these words, spoken by Jesus, you need to see them as a continuation of the episode which directly precedes them: the curing of the blind man who had been born blind.

After assuring his disciples that the man's serious infirmity was not the result of anyone's sin, but was a fortunate circumstance so that the glory of God should be manifested, Jesus made some clay and spread it over the blind man's eyes, and the man was able to see.

The people who had seen the event, discussed it, and then took the man who had been cured to the Pharisees, because it was the Sabbath. The Pharisees questioned him twice and called his parents for questioning. The Pharisees declared Jesus to be a 'sinner' because he had worked on the Sabbath, making clay, and work was forbidden on that day. The man who had been blind gave his reasons for saying that Jesus was a prophet and that he came from God, but the Pharisees cast him out of the synagogue. Jesus met him, and confirmed him in his faith and the man became his disciple. At this point the Teacher gives a marvellous speech on the good shepherd.

In the course of the speech he says:

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

They hear his voice. How is it, you may ask, that men and women know his voice and so listen to it.

We find the explanation in something else which Jesus said: - All that the Father gives me will come to me (John 6,37). Here he is referring to all the people entrusted to him. Will come to me means that everybody is attracted by Jesus. They 'instinctively' go to Jesus. This is the distinguishing mark of the good shepherd. There is an understanding, a bond, and a close relationship between Jesus and man.

Listening to the voice of Jesus does not only mean listening to his teaching and adopting it as our own, it means establishing a personal relationship with Jesus, who calls each of us individually by name. We hear His voice within ourselves, and His truth, which is the truth, works in our heart even though we each remain free to answer his invitation.

By using the example of the good shepherd, Jesus is showing that there is opposition between the legitimate shepherd, who enters by the door, and the thief or brigand who climbs over the fence.

Throughout the centuries false messiahs have tried to attract people with their ideologies, and this still happens today! Those who belong to Jesus know his voice, and so do not allow themselves to be deceived by the various promises made by false messiahs. They do not trust other voices.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

‘. . . and he leads them out.' The man born blind is thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharisees. He symbolises those who suffer exclusion because they believed in Jesus.

By accepting the man born blind as his disciple, Jesus shows how he leads his sheep out of the sheepfold of the old flock of Israel and constitutes a new sheepfold: the Church. The verb 'lead out' recalls the Exodus when Yahweh led Israel out of Egypt. To lead out therefore means to free from slavery and oppression.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

How should we live this new word of life? If we try to listen to the voice of Jesus speaking in our hearts we will find that his voice will lead us out of our selfishness, our pride, our desire for violence, our will to dominate, and our non-loving. It will lead us away from everything that makes us slaves.

If you root your life in Jesus and make him your guide you will certainly be driven away from the temptation of an 'easy going and comfortable Christianity' and a mediocre meaningless life.

By following Jesus who speaks within you and who calls you personally by name, you will not be following the beaten track. You will set out on an undreamed of divine adventure. It will cost your nature something, but on this adventure eveything will be new and beautiful. You will discover just how varied God's imagination is, and you will find how full life is. When you follow a shepherd like this you will see that life is full of fruits and spreads good everywhere.

Finally you will discover what a powerful and wonderful revolution the Gospel is when it is lived out.

Chiara Lubich

 

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