“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who gives them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:27-30)
The first line of this passage jumped out for me this week as I prayed with Sunday’s Gospel – especially the verb “know”. My prayer became almost of mantra of “God knows me” as the week passed. At times this brought relief. I didn’t have to explain or use words in prayer. I could just be. At times this brought panic or worry when I remembered God knew all my weaknesses and sins. The more I sat with this, the more hope I experienced.
One incident from the week captured the sense of the gospel reading for me. On Thursday morning, my youngest son left his lunch in the van on the way to school. I didn’t discover this fact until I was leaving work at 11:15. I rushed out of the parking lot onto snowy roads and crept over the roads icy, making my way across town and toward the school, arriving just in time for lunch. I entered the cafeteria and spotted Brandon talking to the lunchroom ladies, no doubt explaining the missing lunch. I called his name across the room and instantly, he turned and I held up the lunch. He came running toward me with a big smile of relief and a “mom you found it!” Mystery solved. I was relieved he hadn’t had to go hungry. My mother’s heart had to discern whether the better lesson was learned by letting him experience hunger, so as to better remember his lunch the next time; or to provide the lunch and show a measure of mercy and compassion. Knowing Brandon and his history, this was the better way to advocate for him.
I imagine this is a bit like the relationship Jesus speaks of between shepherds and their sheep. It goes beyond familiarity to intimacy. In this intimacy, is a “hearing” that is a “knowing” within the pulsing chambers of our heart. It is a deep, abiding love grounded in trust and mystery. It is a love that has endured pain and sacrifice for the sake of another. It is a love that puts the safety of another first. When Jesus says, “I give them eternal life,” this isn’t just words. It became true in His freely chosen, willingness to lay down his life for us, his sheep. He took our place, as Isaiah tells us, “like a sheep he was led to the slaughter.” And because of this sacrifice, an intimate relationship of redemption is available to each of us. This realization is also the source of hope that grounds my faith journey.
- The heart of vocations: the Heart of our Good Shepherd (junjunfaithbook.com)
- My Sheep Hear My Voice…and Follow Me (swordsoftruth.com)