Sometimes I think Jesus gives us too much credit.
This past Sunday’s Gospel reading, on what is often known as Good Shepherd Sunday, makes what I consider a big assumption. “. . . [T]he sheep follow [the shepherd], because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5).
He assumes that we, or maybe it’s just me, know and easily recognize the voice of the Shepherd. I argue that we are actually more familiar with the voice of strangers. We hear many voices in the day-to-day. You may have seen this video that summarizes how to handle ourselves during a pandemic.
One scientist says this. Another news anchor says that. One civil servant says this. Another doctor says that, but we can’t trust the doctors. In a time of ease of access to globalized communication, who is to say whether a source is trustworthy or not?
We can’t trust the scientist because of their small sample size. We can’t trust the news anchor because we don’t agree with all their conclusions. We can’t trust the civil servant, because they’re only in it for re-election. We can’t trust the doctor because while they’ve gone to years of medical school and have practiced on a number of patients, I have WebMD.
History presents many examples and reasons why we collectively distrust, from war to scandal. Instead of relying or trusting the “experts,” we turn to the romantic ideal of self-reliance. Take destiny into my own hands. I have greater faith in my own incomplete knowledge, my own unformed conscience, my own disordered desires, my own misguided emotions.
Faulty information is problematic, the most serious of errors and lies coming from the most divisive stranger: the evil one.
Within the bigger picture of things, lies against our identities occur normally and naturally. All the “I am not _____ enough” statements. Ideas against our sonship and daughtership. Thoughts that magnify our sin and shortcomings. We need to take things a step deeper, past the voices of strangers, past our own voice, past the whispers of the Devil and dig deep into the heart.
By virtue of our Baptism, God indwells His children. We become more apt to the voice of the shepherd and respond more readily when He calls our name when we learn His voice. We learn His voice by reading and learning what He says about us in Scripture. He laid out His language by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Ignorance of Scripture [truly] is ignorance of Christ (St. Jerome).
May we grow in desire and zeal for the truth of ourselves rooted in the truth of God revealed in His Word. For “[a] thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. [You] come so that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Grant us the grace to resist the lure of the voice of strangers, and instead bestow all confidence in Your voice, the Good Shepherd.
More Good Shepherd Resources
Photo Credit to Exe Lobaiza.