Not too many people know what a gramophone is. For the young digital generation, a gramophone is a century-old device for recording and playing sounds and music. The old RCA logo pictures Nipper, a charming mutt perking his ears in front of a gramophone. The caption reads: His Master’s Voice.
I hope Jesus will forgive me for thinking of Nipper and the RCA logo whenever I read these heart-warming words uttered by his lips: “My sheep hear my voice…”
The recognition of a familiar voice conjures up images of fidelity, loyalty, love, closeness, care as well as reassurance, rejoicing, and reflexive celebration. Two lovers, two friends, two persons who are close to each other do not need to identify themselves over the phone. Actually, identification would imply that any love, friendship and caring between caller and receiver is not sufficiently intense as to make mention of the caller’s name superfluous.
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, the brief passage from the Gospel of John (10:27-30) brims over with all those attributes that trigger in the sheep reassuring memories of being cared for with the utmost attentiveness and love; and in the Shepherd the preciousness of the sheep that the Father has entrusted to him: No one can take them out of my hand. (John 10:28) No one can take them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:29)
What made Jesus so self-confident as to claim that no one could ever snatch any of us from his hands? It must be the fact that Jesus is the visible representation of the Father Himself. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) They share the same salvific will; they share the same intention to make all of us the Father’s adopted children, brothers and sisters of Jesus through the shedding of his blood. For this reason, when he [Jesus] came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you [Father] did not desire, but a body you prepared for me (Hebrews 10:5); Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’ (Hebrews 10:7)
Part of the closeness between Jesus and all of us is grounded in mutual knowledge. While on this earth, we have a very limited and imperfect knowledge of Jesus. It is imperfect due to the fact that we are mere creatures beset with ignorance, prejudices, self-interest even in our pouring over what has been revealed to us from above about our Lord and Savior. However, the knowledge that Jesus, the Good Shepherd has of us is something completely divine.
Jesus can most certainly affirm, I know them, because he is one with the Father who knows each one of us thoroughly: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. (Jeremiah 1:5) LORD, you have probed me, you know me. (Psalm 139:1)
Jesus knows our inclinations, our likes and dislikes, what frightens us as well as what motivates us, what disheartens us and what reinvigorates us and makes us happy. Jesus knows our weaknesses and strengths, our talents and flaws. He knows us in the completeness of our being and in that completeness he loves us. His loving is not limited to the amount of goodness he finds in us.
Jesus knows each one of us by name, personally, intimately. Being each of us made in the image of the Father, Jesus knows that we are each unique and unrepeatable. He treats and heals whatever is ill and sinful in us so as to make our steps swift on the journey to the Kingdom. His loving care, his guidance, his words of comfort and his ultimate sacrifice on the cross shall convince us to follow him with courage and trust.
It is in the ultimate sacrifice of the cross that Jesus proves to us that he is a Shepherd like no other. Any other shepherd cares for and feeds his sheep for a profit. The profit is initially partial: wool and milk. However, eventually the sheep will be slaughtered and their meat sold. Jesus, instead, assures us that his sheep shall never perish.
The Book of Revelation (7:9, 14b-17) offers us the vision of heaven itself. In it we find out the accuracy of this statement: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish”
There is a knowledge that should be etched indelibly in the back of our minds and inscribed deeply in our hearts: we follow Jesus as Good Shepherd because he is the Lamb who, silently and obediently, forfeited his life on the cross to give us eternal life. We follow him also whenever he gives us repose; he leads us to rest from our toils on the Day he has made.
In Baptism and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we have washed our garments spotless in the blood of the Lamb. On the Day he has made, on the day of rest, the same Lamb satisfies our spiritual hunger with his flesh and quenches our thirst for closeness with his blood.
We rest in the shadow of his cross so that we will never forget that he gives us eternal life. As we rest, we gaze at the Easter Candle to hear the echo of Jesus’ victory cry that no one can snatch us from his hands, from his affection, from his care, from his guidance, from his protection, away from his closeness and the detailed knowledge that he has of each one of us.
This is what we feel the need to celebrate at least once a week. This is what we believe until the day in which the Father will welcome us Home and the rejoicing will never cease.