THE Lord said to those who came to Him, “Truly, truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from a stranger because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what He was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by Me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
Christ is our Good Shepherd. There are two aspects of a good shepherd - he knows his sheep, by name; they know him and follow only his voice. Since the shepherd knows his sheep, if two herds were to mix, he would easily be able to pick out which ones are his. And because the sheep know his voice, they would follow him when he called out, and not another shepherd or a thief.
Sheepfold was where the sheep stayed during winter, and of course, they could only enter through a gate. The gate was made and guarded in such a way that thieves and wild animals would not get in.
It says that Jesus's hearers did not understand this analogy, so He had to tell them straight, "I am the gate for the sheep...Whoever enters by Me will be saved." To enter God's Kingdom, to enter Christ's Church, to become part of a Christian community, we have to enter through Christ. There is no other side entrance.
At the same time, who can enter? Those who know the voice of their shepherd and those whose name the shepherd also knows. But the thing is, Christ knows our names, He knows us better than anyone else because we are created in His image. Do we know His voice?
To even become a Christian we, in a way, respond to His voice. When we convert to the True Faith as adults, we do it because something moved us, something made us act. It could very well be His call. When we are baptized as infants, it's because our parents, hopefully, see great value in Christian faith and want to pass it down to us, they also respond to the voice of the Shepherd. When sheep gave birth to a lamb, the lamb became part of the same herd.
Entering this world, our local community, Christ's Church, through the Gate which is Christ, means that we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. It means that we accept His teaching and commandments as life-saving. It means that we will make every effort possible to follow His will. It means that we are ready to follow His voice, and His voice only.
Our Shepherd knows our name. Do we know His voice?
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest