When you imagine the Shepherd’s voice – what does it sound like?

You always knew when it was dinner at the Kempf house in the neighborhood. (cup hand to mouth as a ‘megaphone’) Buddy, Joey, Denny, Billy, Corky, Mary T… Repeated about 3 times. Usually we would be in the middle of some game – fuzz ball, football in the lot, Frisbee tag, you name it. As kids we learned pretty quick: If it was a brother or sister calling your name, you had an extra 5 minutes that you could finish the inning or the game. If it was MOM calling your name, you left, even if it was the middle of your at bat. When mom called your name, the time had come. It was just that simple.

I can never read this passage from John without that image coming to mind – of mom calling our names to dinner from the back porch of our house. The houses were close together, and the places that we played were almost always literally within earshot of home. The shout from the back door was how we communicated over the distance. And mom was not alone in that practice. Other parents would do the same. So you had to listen, even in the midst of the game, for the voice that might be calling YOUR name.

In retrospect, we always dropped everything and came home when mom called for two reasons. First, mom’s voice meant the food was ON THE TABLE – not just about to be on the table – and in the Kempf family, you didn’t want to miss that. But secondly, not only was it the summons to food you didn’t want to miss, but you had to come so you didn’t miss out on family time, so you didn’t miss the one time the entire family would be together that day- sharing in life and love. That is why, when mom called our names, we knew we had to drop everything – because around the dinner table was where our family was family at its best.

That is the truth that Jesus is trying to convey to the scribes and Pharisees – the religious leaders of his day. “I have come that you might have life and have it t more abundantly.” With an aching in his heart, Jesus sees good people, like you and I, trying to make their way in the midst of a world with all kinds of ‘voices’ – all kinds of ideas of what will work to help you get through. “Many people will call your name, will try to attract your attention. Thieves and Marauders! People who do NOT have your best interest at heart.. Do not follow them.” In his heart of hearts, he knows those paths will not work – because they won’t lead people to his Father, the source of life.

Using that comforting image that all in his society would know in their bones – the shepherd’s relation to his sheep – Jesus invites the leaders of his time – and US – to trust in him. And to believe that in him, we will find the path to life. Gatekeeper, good shepherd, the one who calls you by name – all are different descriptions of the same truth – we have a savior who has come that we might know his life and love flowing through our veins. So this week, do a little “listening” for that voice. And listen for it in two ‘arena’s – as Jesus tells us – the being led out and the being led back home.

  • Where have you felt that pull, that leading out into the “mission fields” as a sign from an Episcopal church in Illinois tells you: You are now entering the mission fields. If being Catholic is all about sharing the love and life and faith that we know in our savior – then where are you being called to be the bearer of that love? Perhaps it is a letter to a relative who has been holding a grudge. Perhaps it is a Face Book search to connect with someone who has dropped off your radar. Maybe you hear it in ACA brochure – listing of the different charities – Criminal justice? Hmm… LISTEN for that call to GO OUT and serve.
  • And where have you felt the pull to ‘go inward’ with Jesus. Perhaps it is a journey of healing over some decision made years ago that you need to reconcile. Perhaps it is to learn more about this Catholic faith that we share. Perhaps it is the call to linger in PRAYER over that morning cup of coffee or that evening bowl of ice cream. Listen for the call of the Shepherd to go IN to be with Him.

(Hold had to mouth as ‘megaphone’) Buddy, Joey, Denny, Billy, Corky, Mary T – it is time to come home. So too for us. HEAR this evening/morning –the shepherd calling YOUR NAME – not to the Kempf family table, but to this table of the Bread of life – so that you might have life and have it more abundantly…

To the First Communicants: Today is a pretty exciting day. Every other Sunday before this, you heard Jesus calling your family members and your friends to the table. NOW, he is calling you to the table! Casimir, Jacob, Max, Ferderica, Lucille, Christoff, Jack, Jacob, Ryan, Cloe. Dinner’s on the table. It is time for you to take and eat and take and drink. I hope today and all days, you will learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd who calls YOU to the table of life… Close your eyes and listen… today and all days…