The Lord says, “My Sheep hear my voice…” That’s right he called you a sheep. No come on, get a little indignant with me here! The Lord is comparing us, not to the swift eagle, , the beautiful gazelle, the mighty bear, the swift horse, the mighty lion, or the clever and intelligent dog. No, he looks at us as says we’re like sheep. Hmm… While reality may hurt, the truth can liberate. For the fact is, sheep are lowly animals, but they are valuable as well. Let’s consider this Gospel in three stages: The Sign of the Sheep, the Safety of the Sheep and the Salvation of the Sheep.

I.THE SIGN OF THE SHEEP - In the text,  Jesus said: “My sheep…. “ What does the Lord mean in using sheep as a sign for us? Lets consider some qualities about sheep that may help illustrate what the Lord is teaching.

1. Sheep are WAYWARD It means that they just tend to wander off. It just grazes awhile then looks up, and looks around and says, in effect, “Where am I?” A sheep will nibble here and browse there and get lost lost, he doesn’t know how to get back to the sheep fold unless the shepherd goes and brings him back. Sheep just keep on going and don’t come back. Dogs and cats can find their way home, The horse can find the barn, But not the old sheep. It doesn’t know how to get back to the sheep fold unless the shepherd goes and brings him back.

Now don’t tell me that doesn’t describe us. All we like Sheep have gone astray, every one to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). This is how it is with us. We get easily lost. We need the sheep fold of the Church and we need the Shepherd, who is Christ, ministering through his Pope, bishops and priests. Otherwise we just wander here and there.

2. Sheep are WITLESS - That is to say they just plain dumb. Ever hear of a trained sheep? We train dogs and birds, horses and even lions. But the sheep cannot be trained!

Now we human sheep like to think we are so smart. Sure we’ve been to the moon, and we have all this technical computer stuff. But too many of us aren’t even smart enough to pray every day, get to Church on Sunday, and follow God’s basic directions for life.

We’re so witless that we even do things that KNOW harm us. Even the simplest directions from God we either confuse or get stubborn about. We cop an attitude and say “We know a few things too.” That’s right, we do know a very few things.

We’re so dumb, we think we’re smarter than God! We think we have a better way than God’s way. No that’s really dumb.

3. Sheep are WEAK- A sheep just has no way to protect himself. The mule can kick, the cat can scratch, the dog can bite, the rabbit can run, and the skunk…you know what he can do. But the old sheep? Without the care of the Shepherd and the sheep dogs, the sheep is history. The wolf comes and all he can do is stand there and get killed.

And so it is with us, if it were not for the care of Jesus the Good Shepherd, the world, the flesh and the devil have got us cornered. And if it were not for the Lord, and the power of his grace, we would be toast.

We like to think we’re strong. We have armies, we amass political power, monetary power, star-power. It all gives us the illusion that we are strong. But then the slightest temptation arises and we fall. We need the Lord and his grace and mercy or we don’t stand a chance because by our self we are weak and prone to sin.

AND YET…

4. Sheep are WORTHWHILE animals. The sheep is a valued animal. In Jesus’ day many a man counted his wealth by sheep. Sheep give meat and milk, produce lambs and wool. Shepherds made many sacrifices in Jesus’ day to breed, herd, and protect these valuable animals. And so it is with us. We may not feel worthy at times, but apparently we were worth saving because the Lord paid the price of our redemption. He saw the price, and paid it all. And not with any diminishable sum of silver and gold but with his own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).

5. Sheep WALK together – Sheep flock together, and thus are safer. To be a solitary sheep is dangerous. It’s a good way to get devoured.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). The scriptures also say Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up (Eccles 4:10). Sheep are not supposed to go off on their own, neither are we.

We are called to part of a flock and to be under the care of a shepherd. Most of us realize this in a parish setting. But in the wider sense, we are under a bishop’s care and ultimately the care of the Pope who is the chief Shepherd and the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

The Lord Jesus said there is to be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16). God wants us to be in the protection of the flock with a shepherd watching over us. An old spiritual says, “Walk together children. Don’t you get weary. There’s a great camp meeting in the promised land.” Now too many like to say, “That old Pope doesn’t know this or that.” But again please consider that to wander from the care of the flock and the Shepherd is a mighty dangerous thing.

6. Sheep are WARY- Jesus says elsewhere, He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; 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, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:11-14).

Sheep have the remarkable quality of knowing their master’s voice and of instinctively fearing any other voice and fleeing from it.

In this matter, real sheep are smarter than most of us. For we do not flee voices contrary to Christ. Instead we draw close and say, “Tell me more.” In fact, we spend a lot of time and money to listen to other voices. We spend huge amounts of money to buy televisions so that the enemy’s voice can influence us and our children. We spend large amounts of time with TV, radio, Internet.

Yes, we can so easily be drawn to the enemy’s voice. And not only do we NOT flee it, but we feast on it. And instead of rebuking it, we turn and rebuke the voice of God and put his Word on trial, instead of putting the world on trial.

The goal for us is to be more wary, like sheep and to recognize only one voice, that of the Lord speaking though his Church, and to flee every other voice.

II. The SAFETY OF THE SHEEP – Jesus goes on to say, hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.

Note the promises that Jesus will not be overpowered, no one can snatch from his hand. Dan 7:14 says, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that shall not be destroyed, his kingship shall not be destroyed. In other words, the devil can’t sheep-steal, in no way can he have power over Jesus or his flock.

But it’s all predicated on what’s been said. If we want protection and safety, we have to know only Jesus’ voice and stop running after all sorts of false shepherds and voices. We have to stay with the true Shepherd, Jesus, and in the protection of the flock. You want safety? Stay in the shelter of Jesus’ shepherding.

Let us be clear on this point, no weapon waged against us can ever prosper (Isaiah 54:17).  Satan cannot harm or get to any of us, UNLESS we open the door. Satan is like a dog on a leash, he can only harm us if we get too close by our own foolish decisions! Satan is a chained dog…do not stray into his range or territory!

Yet so many do! They savor pop culture, with all its darkness, click over to pornographic sites, take a steady diet of revengeful “action” movies, and watch endless commercials telling them to buy the latest product with its promises of empty fulfillment. A steady stream of polluted water and then we wonder why we are sick and weak, full of the parasites of sin.

Is it any wonder that our thinking is distorted, unbiblical, dark and foolish? At least sheep know to flee a false shepherd. What about us. Too many of us are intrigued by the ranting of false shepherds. We glamorize evil, and have our minds filled with false teaching and improper priorities.

And thus, while no one can snatch from Jesus’ hand, this is not some magical protection that prevents us from foolishly and sinfully walking away from him. And if we walk, woe to us, if we stray, our strength will fail!

Every ancient city had walls and gates to protect its citizens. But that citizen was fool who thought he could enjoy the protection of the city by journeying outside its protective walls. Yet too many Christians think they should enjoy the promises and protections of Jesus,  and yet stray form the safety of the protective walls of his kingdom. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Jesus calls anyone who hears his teaching and does not follow it a fool (Matt 7:26). Fools do not enjoy protection, since wisdom is of the Kingdom but foolery is of the world, headed for destruction.

And old spiritual says, Some seek God, don’t seek him right, they pray all day and fool at night! Well, living a double life is no way to enjoy the Lord’s protection. That only comes to those who live in the protection of His Kingdom, not for those who merely visit there. The Shelter of the Shepherd is the only safe harbor.

Yet another old song says, My mother taught me how to pray. My mother taught me how to pray. So if I die and my soul be lost, it’s nobody’s fault but mine. My savior taught me how to live, My savior taught me how to live. So if I die and my soul be lost it’s nobody’s fault but mine. 

Pay attention fellow sheep: do not stray from the Shepherd. He can protect you. But if you want to live a double life or open doors in your heart to Satan, understand that the protection of the Lord is only for those who desire and freely choose such protection. The Lord is not a slave owner. He is a lover who invites us to freely accept his offer of new life rooted in a loving and trusting relationship to him.

Do you know his voice? Do you know ONLY his voice? Do you run form every voice contrary to is? Or do you collect counselors who tell you what your itching ears want to hear? (cf 2 Tim 4:3).

If so, you have the protection of the Savior Jesus Christ, and nothing will ever harm you (Luke 10:19). But if you stray, be not surprised at the presence of wolves.

In deliverance ministry we look especially to the doors that the afflicted open to demons. For, unless they have opened a door does a demon have any power to be there. The key is to repent and close all doors, desiring only the care of the True Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).

III. THE SALVATION OF THE SHEEP – The text goes on to say, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

Note that, for the flock of the Lord there is the gift of “eternal life.” Too many Christians equate this with some far off, distant future that they vaguely hope to attain.

But eternal life refers not only to the capacity to “live forever and never die.” It does mean this, but eternal life is so much more! It begins now. And “eternal” refers not only to length of life but toe the fulness of it.

In this sense, eternal life is now as we become ever more aware of an experience that, If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation!” (2 Cor 5:17). Of this I am a witness, being far more alive at 51, than I ever was at 21!My body ages, but soul is younger and more vibrant than ever.

And here is the promise to lay hold of of: those who are in the shepherd’s care, come, by stages to experience life more fully, to become more fully alive. Jesus our Shepherd promises us eternal life. But this does not wait till heaven, it is now. The sheep are brought to salvation, to healing, we you will accept it.  If we choose freedom and the shepherd’s cares, it is ours! If we reject some or all of it, then we live apra from his care and vision and too easily savage wolves come and attack.

Are you smarter than a sheep? Do you know how to recognize the shepherd’s voice and follow only him? Or are you foolishly running after worldly advice and sinful priorities? On this Good Shepherd Sunday, strive to be a good sheep.

Yes he said it, a “sheep.” But sheep have this going for them, they recognize only their shepherd’s voice and run from any other.

12 Responses

  1. Matthew Wade says:

    Dear Monseignor, this was a wonderful reflection. Your opening lines really struck my heart, and you enticed me to keep reading only to discover more superb wisdom. God bless you, good pastor, and all your ordained brethren!

  2. RichardGTC says:

    Amen. Amen. Amen. Neat video.

  3. Loreen Lee says:

    Thank you for this M. Pope. I have always thought of the sheep as merely followers, and never before understood the characteristic of sheep being easily led astray, especially when they wandered ‘on their own’. You have made the analogy/metaphor far more meaningful to me.

  4. James says:

    Thank God for providing a Good Shepherd!

  5. theresa says:

    Simply wonderful! Thank you!

  6. Kevin rilott says:

    Dear Monsignor,

    Thank you for all of these posts. Words cannot express how much help these are.

    And thank you for the way you lay them out – it makes it so easy to read.

    I hope it’s OK, I sometime printout your posts for my students to read.

    God bless you.

  7. Mari Kate says:

    This reminds me so much of Ireland. I remember watching with a smile as the little lambs inevitably they would get separated from their moms and wind up crying in the meadow until they would be found again. We are a lot like that if only in our “independent” thinking. How quickly this can lead us astray. Before we know it, we are the ones bashing the the true beliefs and creeds and politiking for a more secular church.

  8. Peter Wolczuk says:

    A feeling ,came.
    How often the blood of a shepherd is shed in the defence of the sheep.
    From the scratch of a thorn upon the head as he reaches for the lost into brambles deep.
    Does he cry as he fends off predators which he will meet?
    “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and feet.”*
    Will he feel frustration as he brings them back; only to see them wander again to the lair of a wolven pack?
    When his father calls him home will he hear with dispair;
    Of other shepherds on watch whose efforts are only half way there?
    Does he look to the day when he will return?
    As he mourns the few workers who will help in the bountiful harvest which the work will earn?
    *Psalm 22:16
    Such a tiny thought grows as I write a post. Thank you for that.
    But, back to the post; calling us sheep as we seek to boldly roar and to overpower the predators which threaten. Humiliation can be so uncomfortable as it brings us back to the strength of humble reality, as it brings us the truth which will set us free from slavery to sin. John 8:32.
    Also, “Yes, we can so easily be drawn to the enemy’s voice. And not only do we NOT flee it, but we feast on it. And instead of rebuking it, we turn and rebuke the voice of God…”
    What about rebuking the enemy’s voice? I have heard a popular thing when I was among the non-denominational. People who thought that the devil may would be at work among us would call out a rebuke in the Name of Jesus and, I would ask if that was scriptural and, usually, no one would respond or – they would just say a sort of “of course” but I wanted divine truth. I was certain that His Name had great value but, didn’t know if The Name could be specifically applied here , and couldn’t find it in Scripture. Then, a few years ago in a time of great temptation, I was guided to James 4:7 in a way that I feel could only be divine. I invoked (and rebuked) by following these instructions and immediately found great relief.
    Then, a week or so ago in my daily Bible reading, from front to back in order, I came across; Acts 19:13-16 “13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” NIV.
    Didn’t work so good for that guy. I still stick for James 4:7 which is not only Scriptural but, is also proven by my personal experience.

  9. Stephen from New Orleans says:

    Reading this column made me so happy that I spontaneously broke out in a sheepish grin !!

  10. Thomas Gallagher says:

    One of the loveliest sermons I have ever heard came to me years ago when I visited a Congregational (UCC) Church in Massachusetts. The minister told us we are like sheep, grazing on a pleasant hillside, but in great danger. Over the hill, out of sight, almost out of hearing, we catch the sound of our Shepherd’s voice–calling us to Himself, calling us out of danger to the safety that is found in His Presence. What the minister didn’t add was something I’ve learned quite recently: that in the ancient world, shepherds were tough guys. They lived in rough conditions, outdoors in all kinds of weather. They were strong and powerfully built men, able to take on a wolf, armed only with the shepherd’s long knife, and wrestle the wolf to the ground and kill it. Shepherds in Jesus’s day were not wimps, nor should we think of the Good Shepherd as one.

  11. Linards says:

    Thanks for the Beautiful Meditation ! It carried back me my childhood and touched me deeply.
    Best regards from Latvia!

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