Sunday, July 28, on the reading from the Gospel according to Saint John 10:1-9
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
“He calls his own sheep by name…”
Today Christ gives us a very direct analogy of His relationship to us and our relationship to Him.
He is the Shepherd and we are the sheep. [And no, this does not mean that God considers us to be dumb animals. Even though, compared to the One Who creates knowledge and grants of wisdom, we are not that intelligent.]
The image of the shepherd and the sheep has more to do with the way the sheep react to their shepherd, following and obeying only his voice. The shepherd goes in front of the sheep, they follow him, basically, in his footsteps. He picks out the best way for them, and goes on it first.
And just like the sheep know the voice only of their own shepherd, he knows each of his sheep by name. This is one of the main points of this passage. In those days, people did not simply know each other’s personal, first names.
To know someone’s name meant knowing them intimately, personally, deeply. We have lost that today. We know each other’s first name, last name, nickname, baptismal name, and every other name in-between. Yet, we barely know each other. Knowing someone’s name no longer gives us any personal relationship with that person. A name has become just another boring fact about a person.
When Christ says that He calls us by name, He means that He knows us as personally and intimately as anyone can ever know us.
Our Shepherd knows us and leads us, but do we follow His voice or a stranger’s voice? Do we even know Christ’s voice?
We are always busy, we are always distracted in our life. In this hustle and bustle we lose the voice of our Shepherd, get distracted, and tend to start following the voice of a stranger.
It’s easy to check whether we are distracted from the voice of the Shepherd or not. How much time do we spend on refreshing our knowledge of our faith or learning something new? And how much time do we spend on reading or watching the news or scrolling through the social media?
I’m not saying that all we should be doing is reading the Bible and spiritual books. And there is nothing wrong with staying up to date with the news, latest scores, and what our friends are up to on facebook.
But we are what we consume, and we consume information. Some information is the voice of our Good Shepherd and some information is the voice of the stranger. Which voice are we heeding more in our daily life?
When Christ knows us by name and calls us, can we honestly say that we are capable of hearing Him? He calls us, do we hear Him?
Last week I read a very good book on how to begin to pray. The book talked about one of very common complaints that people have, I know I have it. The complaint is that we keep praying and asking, and God is not answering. We don’t hear Him answer any or all of our prayers.
The author of the book, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, asks one simple, yet profound question, “Do we give enough space and time for God to answer, and do we give ourselves enough space and time to hear His answer?”
Right? If we keep praying and asking, asking and praying, how can God put in His word? It’s like talking with a child that won’t stop babbling, but then runs off as soon as they are done talking.
Sometimes it feels like we are this incessantly babbling child before God; and we neither have time to hear Him respond, nor even give Him an opportunity. We tell God what we want, and off we go.
Metropolitan Anthony suggests having prayerful silence. It’s when we sit down in front of our icons, or wherever we pray, become aware of our surroundings, become aware that we are in the presence of Christ … and don’t say anything, don’t ask for anything, just sit silently with God, giving Him time and space to respond.
Now, this does not mean that the heavens will open up and we’ll hear the voice of God. If nothing else, if we start hearing voices, then something has gone terribly wrong.
Prayerful silence is the time when we learn to be one-on-one with our Good Shepherd, without making any demands. It’s the five minutes each day that we offer back to God, instead of asking Him to give something to us.
The Shepherd calls His own sheep by name. He knows us better that we might know ourselves. And He calls us. Therefore, learn the voice of the Good Shepherd by spending time in prayerful silence and also in prayerful learning. In this way, when He calls us, we’ll know, and we’ll follow.
To Christ our Good Shepherd, Who leads us on the path of salvation, we give glory, always, and unto ages of ages.