The Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice.” That’s right, He called us sheep. Get a little indignant with me here! The Lord is comparing us not to majestic eagles, beautiful gazelles, swift horses, mighty lions, or clever doges, but to sheep. While reality may hurt, the truth can liberate. Although sheep are considered somewhat lowly animals, they are valuable as well. Let’s consider some qualities of sheep that may help illustrate what He is teaching. Two are more negative, two are positive
Sheep are WAYWARD – They tend to wander off. A sheep will graze for a while and then look around and seem to wonder, “Where am I?” Dogs and cats can find their way home, horses can find the barn, but sheep can’t manage to find their way back without the shepherd and his sheepdogs leading and herding them. Without this, sheep are lost, they stand a chance. Too soon they fall in a hole, crevasse or ravine or are easily picked off by wolves.
Don’t tell me that doesn’t describe us! Like sheep, we have gone astray, each to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). Yes, we easily become lost. We need the sheepfold of the Church; we need Christ the Shepherd, ministering through Priests, bishops, religious sisters, parents and other leaders with He himself as our Chief Shepherd. But too many of us are wayward. Less than 20% of Catholics even go to Mass. And sure enough, wandering from the care of the Shepherd they fall into the holes and pitfalls of foolish errors, lies of the world and the devil, and are easy prey for the wolves of this world. Oh yes, we like sheep are very wayward and unless we stay in the care of the shepherd we don’t stand a chance.
Sheep are WEAK – Sheep have no way to protect themselves. Mules can kick, cats can scratch, dogs can bite, rabbits can run away, and skunks—well, you know what they can do—but without the care of the shepherd and the help of sheepdogs, sheep are doomed! The wolf comes and all they can do is stand there get devoured. The only safe place is in the sheepfold, in the fenced in pasture with the Shepherd himself as the gatekeeper. Inside are green and safe pastures, outside, all bets are off; just presume They’ll be picked off by the wolf.
So it is with us. If it were not for the care of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we’d be cornered by the world, the flesh, and the devil. 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, political power, monetary power, and star power that can feed that illusion. Then at the slightest temptation we fall! We need the Lord and His grace and mercy, or we don’t stand a chance. We are weak and prone to sin.
Only inside, the defending walls of God’s Commandments and the safety of the Kingdom do we stand a chance. We need to get there and stay there. Choosing any other place is just dumb.
Sheep are WORTHWHILE – In Jesus’ day, many a man counted his wealth by the number of sheep he owned. Shepherds made many sacrifices to breed, herd, and protect these valuable animals, which provided meat, milk, and wool. So it is with us. At times we may not feel worthy, but apparently we were worth saving because the Lord paid the price of our redemption. He knew the price and paid it all—not with silver and gold but with His own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Sheep are WARY – In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, 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.
In this matter, sheep are smarter than most of us, for we do not flee voices contrary to Christ’s. Instead, we draw close to those voices and ask, “Tell me more.” In fact, we spend a lot of time and money to listen to those other voices. We buy televisions so that the enemy’s voice can influence us and our children. We spend large amounts of time watching television, listening to the radio, and perusing the Internet.
Yes, we can so easily be drawn to the enemy’s voice. Not only do we not flee from it, we feast upon it! Instead of rebuking it, we rebuke the voice of God. We put His Word on trial instead of putting the world on trial. How dumb is that!
We must be more wary, like sheep, and respond only to one voice: that of the Lord speaking though His Church. We must flee every other voice.
Pay attention, my fellow sheep: do not stray from the Shepherd. The protection of the Lord is only for those who desire and freely choose such protection. He can protect you, but not if you live a double life or open the door to your heart to Satan. 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 with Him.
Do you know His voice? Do you know only His voice? Do you run form every voice contrary to His, or do you seek counselors who tell you what your itching ears want to hear? (cf 2 Tim 4:3) If you remain true, 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.