It is my sincere prayer and hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy during these difficult times. During this crisis, we need to be highly informed in the “natural,” while we listen in the “spiritual,” asking “What is God saying during this time?” and “What is God doing during this time?” We do not want to miss the lessons we are to learn during this “grand global pause.”

Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” referring, of course, to Jesus. Gospel reading speaks of Jesus as the shepherd who calls his sheep by name and leads them out to pasture. He is also the gate of the sheepfold. All who enter through him will “have life and have it more abundantly.” 

In those days, flocks of sheep were kept overnight in a common enclosure; the walls were stone – and high enough that the top was beyond the claws and the jaws of the wolves and other predators that prowled the countryside. Such is the case, even today. At nightfall each shepherd leads his sheep into the sheepfold. In the morning, the shepherd leads his flock out again. The sheep know the sound of the shepherd’s voice. 

A visitor to the Holy Land asked why there were not gates to the sheepfolds. The guide replied, “That is an easy one; that is where the shepherds sleep.” The sheep gate and the shepherd are one and the same. 

The shepherd is the only defense for the sheep. He remains at the most vulnerable point. He lies down between the sheep and any predators – to protect them and even possibly to give his life for them. 

Our relationship with Jesus allows us a place of refuge, a place where we will always find nourishment and safety. Jesus has called us by name, so we are able then to recognize his voice.

What does that mean in terms of our daily living? Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows us by name, and he wants us to know him in the same way that he knows his Father, and his Father knows him. He knows and loves us intimately, and he gives us the grace to know and love him in the same way.

We learn to do this by taking the time each day to listen to his voice. He speaks to us in the Scriptures, in our worship, in our personal prayer, and in the people and events that are part of our daily lives. St. Francis de Sales calls this process learning to let Jesus live in us. As we let ourselves be led by the voice of Jesus.

Jesus lives in us more and more – and the new life that he shares with us becomes the source from which we live each day. The power that flows from his death and rising transforms our self-centeredness into out-reaching love for one another. More and more, we become the love of God incarnated in our world.

Because we hear Jesus’ voice, we are able to be more patient in our suffering. We are able to look at Jesus’ own experience of suffering and learn from him how to accept our own. He left us an example. He trusted in his Father’s love for him and knew that his Father was with him no matter what he was doing. He listened for his Father’s voice and found refuge in his love.

In the sacrament of Baptism, Jesus called us by name and made us part of his flock. What a wonderful gift we have been given in our baptism! May we learn to take hold of that gift each day and nurture its growth through prayer and generous love. Let us take joy in the fact that Jesus is leading us to abundance of life with him – an abundance that will be complete in eternity.