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Notes from Fr. Vitalis

My Sheep Hear My Voice.

Dear Parishioners,

Each year on the 4th Sunday of Easter, the Church presents St. John’s narrative about the Good Shepherd. It is an image that Jesus deliberately chose for himself. He is “the good shepherd.” As we know, the primitive Church liked to depict Jesus as a shepherd carrying his lambs on his shoulders. We readily comprehend Jesus’ succinct remarks today. The words themselves seem to evoke the love of our Lord, the deep intimacy between the sheep and their shepherd, and the desire of the shepherd not to exclude anyone from the Father’s indispensable love.

He was not afraid to surrender his life to his sheep. As a true shepherd he is familiar with his flock. “My sheep hear my voice; they follow me.” He is not a stranger to his flock, nor should his flock be afraid of him. This kind of relationship is what Jesus is inviting us to have with God. A relationship where there is no fear. We see how he describes his sheep with profound tenderness. His knowledge of his sheep has no comparison. He gathers them and protects them with his life. He never allows anyone to snatch them away from him. He sees them as his gift from the Father.

Such affection and love cannot be explained. His actions speak so convincingly. We can trust this shepherd; because he died for us so that we may have the eternal life. What is expected from us is to listen to his voice. For his voice is the voice of truth, hope and love. Only those who are humble, simple, free, and uncomplicated can heed his voice. We may not fully understand, but we too are capable of loving. Love begets love. Out of love he laid down his life for us, and the same love will move us to accept his friendship and protection.

The Risen Christ calls those who listen to him his sheep, and not goat because he knows that sheep require a different kind of care than goat or cattle. Sheep are fragile and often appear weak before threats. Therefore, they are handled more tenderly; as a result, it creates a bond between the sheep and the shepherd. The Father has entrusted us with the care of his Son. No one can take us away from his grasp. Dangers are around us and we must recognize and watch out for them. The Devil is not completely out of business. He goes around seeking the ruin of souls. Don’t let him get to you. Let the voice of the Good Shepherd speak to you and not the voice of the world with her transitory glory.

When you’re not sure of what the future brings, when you feel so tired, discouraged, and lonely, do not allow your darkness to speak to you. Let the voice and light of the risen Christ speak to you. He is the One whom God has chosen to shepherd his people. With him is salvation and his voice soothes and heals. He will lead us to the spring of life-giving water.

Post resurrection stories present to us strong defiant disciples led by Peter and John who speaks courageously about Jesus and his redemptive mission. Peter calls on all to recognize that singular role of Christ by accepting him in faith. It is proper for us to ask ourselves this question; after Easter what is next?

Peter’s response provides us with an outline on how to live the resurrection experiences. He outlines the steps of incorporation that included a call to repentance, baptism, and openness to receiving the Holy Spirit. Has the celebration of Easter joys moved you to deeper appreciation of your faith? Can we say that our lives have taken direction toward living our faith in sincerity?

Today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Please pray for an increase in vocation to priesthood and religious life. Pray that our religious leaders, pastors, and pastoral team will continue to imitate Jesus the Good Shepherd. They too need our prayers and encouragement.

Grace and Peace To You,

Fr. Vitalis Anyanike