Know that the LORD is God; he made us, his we are; his people the flock he tends. Three things are true of Jesus’ sheep: they hear His voice, they cannot be taken from His hands, and they have life in them.
“We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” But sheep know the voice of their shepherd. They know it, and follow it, but not everyone chooses to listen to the Lord. Of these Jesus said, they are not my sheep. Instead they are wolves who try to devour the sheep. These are the people who break unity with the Church because the people of God faithfully proclaim his word. We are called to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, for we have one hope, one Lord, and one faith (cf Eph 4:3-5). Those who wish to change the faith of the Church break her unity throughout the world and throughout history. Those who dissent from the teachings of the Church dissent from the voice of the Lord and are outside the sheepfold. It’s popular today to ignore the teachings of the Church whether they are on the death penalty, abortion, contraception, or the preferential option for the poor. We cannot pick and choose from the teachings of the Church based on what we think is true because then our beliefs no longer rest on faith in what Jesus Christ has revealed, but in our own opinions.
If you doubt the teachings of the Church, do some investigation. The people of God are always ready to give a reason for their belief. Do you doubt that faith and reason are compatible? Read Fides et Ratio. Do you doubt that only men can be ordained to the priesthood? Read Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. If you doubt the faith, ask me your questions or search the web. The early Christian communities were “of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). We need to find peace again, today, if we are to be compelling missionaries. A house divided against itself cannot stand (Mk 3:25).
If we are God’s people, who listen to the voice of the Jesus, we have no reason to fear. “All things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28) or as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “no one can take them out of my hand.” All things are subject to Father’s providence and no one can snatch us from His hands. This is why the apostles Paul and Barnabas left Antioch in the first reading full of joy and the Holy Spirit. Because they were God’s sheep, neither suffering nor death could thwart them, nor can insults or threats harm us today. The one who sits on the throne will shelter those who stand before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches of victory. Our victory is secured in Christ Jesus who has washed us white as wool. When people mock Jesus and His sheep, stand up to them! Have a little courage and don’t be a coward.
Our hope is in the Lord; there is no need to be afraid. God, being from all eternity, foreknew us and called us by name. He personally invites us, His sheep, to the Supper of the Lamb. Here all the sheep gather as one flock every Sunday in order to lie in green pastures and by still water (cf Ps 23:2). Here, our Good Shepherd puts a table before us (Ps 23:5). At the altar of the Lamb, we eat the Passover Lamb who burned in love on the Cross for us. The Lamb says about Himself, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (Jn 6:57). Through the Eucharist, we receive the power to become children of God, living the life of the Son, whose life, above all is a life of love.
If, by faith, we hear the voice of the Lord today and harden not our hearts, we will be counted as one of Jesus’ sheep. The LORD is good: his kindness endures forever, and no one is able to take His sheep from His hands because He gives us the power to become children of God.