Fourth Sunday of Easter
Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 23:1-6; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10)
Hearing the Voice of Jesus Christ, Our Shepherd
“The sheep hear his voice.” (John 10:3).
The people who first heard Jesus compare himself to a shepherd had some background knowledge that many of us lack. They knew that when shepherds brought their sheep in for the night, they often put them into pens with other flocks. And how did shepherds distinguish their sheep from all the others when it was time to go out to pasture again? Easy. Each shepherd had a distinctive call, which only his sheep would recognize and follow.
What an apt metaphor for Jesus’ relationship with us! He is the Good Shepherd, whose sheep know to respond when he calls to them.
Or do they? Perhaps this is an area where some of Jesus’ sheep — some of us — need a bit more training. Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming so familiar with Jesus that you can quickly discern his voice from the other voices in the world? This gift of discernment, which is every believer’s inheritance in Christ, is developed as we imitate the first Christians, who “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Close attention to Scripture and Church teaching can help us recognize God’s voice and the kind of things he might tell us. Fellowship with other followers of Christ can build us up and give us a sounding board to help us see if our ideas are on target. Personal prayer can become a conversation where we learn to hear the voice of him who loves us best. And the Eucharist can become an intimate encounter with the Lord, who wants to lead us into a deeper understanding of his will.
Isn’t it comforting that, despite our unworthiness, we can still hear Jesus say, “I love you”? This is our Shepherd’s distinctive call. How can we possibly resist?
“Jesus open my ears and teach me to recognize your voice in all the ways it comes to me. Then open my lips and let me be your voice to others.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In the first reading from Acts, Peter encourages the people to “Repent and be baptized” so that they will experience “forgiveness” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We as baptized Christian have also received “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” How would you describe what you have done with this gift you’ve received? In what way has it made a difference in the way you live out your life each day as a Christian? What steps can you take to allow the Holy Spirit to take a more active role in guiding and leading you?
- The responsorial psalm, Psalm 23, reminds us of the first words spoken by John Paul II after his election as Pope: “Do not be afraid.” Even though we know that the “Lord is my Shepherd,” what are the fears that can keep you from being the man of God you are called to be?
- In the second reading, St. Peter describes Christ’s response to the unjust (“he committed no sin”) insults and sufferings he received. What is your typical response to insults and suffering, especially when you think they are unjust? Do you think it is possible to respond in the way Jesus did? Why or why not? How do you think God wants you to respond?
- The Gospel speaks of hearing the voice of our shepherd. In what ways does the Lord “speak” to you in prayer? How do you recognize his voice? What practical steps can you take to try to become more open to hearing the Lord’s voice during your times of prayer?
- The Gospel also gives us an unambiguous description of Satan’s role. In contrast to the role of the Good Shepherd (or Psalm 23), Satan comes “only to steal and slaughter and destroy.” How does Satan, “the father of lies and the accuser of the brethren,” use this role to destroy relationships? How might you counter him?
- How would you answer this question posed in the meditation: “Do you believe that you have the potential of becoming so familiar with Jesus that you can quickly discern his voice from the other voices in the world?”
- The meditation goes on to describe some ways to develop more fully this “gift of discernment.” Which of these do you need to do better in? Are there some small steps you can take to cause this to happen?
- At the end of your meeting, pray for one another that each of you would hear more clearly the Lord’s voice in your life. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.