Hearing the Voice that Leads Us to Life

4th Sunday of Easter | April 30, 2023

See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

Additional homilies from this day in the liturgical season: Easter 4A – 2014, 2017, 2020

So I am not exactly the mystical type.

In fact, my prayer life often feels like a laborious struggle.

To pay attention

To quiet my racing mind.

To actually hear anything beside my own running commentary or to do lists.

I meet people who seem to have such a rich relationship with God.  Who can visually place themselves in Gospel stories or who can slip into a meditative state with just a few deep breaths.  Whose hearts are filled with consolation.

Not me.

And yet, there was one moment in my life when I am convinced I heard God speak.

It was October of my 1st year teaching at Fr. Judge.

Now, many of you have heard the stories, but my 1st year at Fr. Judge was something.

I mean you name it, it probably happened.

A mix of a really rambunctious group of juniors and a totally inexperienced teacher and well you can picture how this went.  

No one wanted to do work.  No one came prepared with even the basics, like a pencil or a notebook.  There were almost fights and random f-bombs dropped at totally inopportune times. 

And I mean, what do you do when a kid is hacking into the school’s technology and shutting down your computer in the middle of lessons?

So by October, I couldn’t do it anymore.

I had been throwing up each morning out of sheer anxiety.  And returning each evening utterly drained.

And so I found myself in the chapel at about 11:30 at night.  And I was angry.  Beyond angry.

I just started screaming.  Cursing the God I felt had utterly abandoned me.

What did I do wrong?  What more do you want from me?

And after the last scream died out.  I heard it.  A voice that was not my own.  Clear as crystal in my mind.

When you said you wanted to do my will, what did you think you were signing up for?

Now I would love to say, I took that critique well.  But nope.  I doubled down.

Are you serious, right now??

There are plenty of people doing your will and they don’t have to deal with this.

Try again.

And then God got the final line in our little exchange.

If not you, who?  For these are my kids too.

And I sat there utterly stumped.

Because I didn’t have an answer.

And so I followed that voice.  That voice that led me back into a pasture I had been trying to escape.

And it changed my life.

Those juniors made me the teacher and Oblate I am today.

Saving my vocation on more than one occasion.

I think about that year every time I hear this Gospel.

Because the challenge to hear the voice of the shepherd.  It is not easy.

Not when there are countless voices shouting all around us.

Voices with such a cacophony of conflicting messages about who we are supposed to be.  What we are supposed to do.  Where we are supposed to go.

But what I learned from my one mystical moment is that the voice of God is always going to lead towards life.

It is always going to lead towards love.

Life and love that is always outward focused.

Outside of the safe confines of the gated community where we had once called home.

And into the world with the mess and chaos, the brokenness and the uncertainty.

Life and love that constantly brings us into relationship, particularly with those most difficult.  Most unlikely.  Most uncomfortable.  

Life and love that gradually transform us into clearer reflections of the Christ we follow.  The Christ who claims us all as his own.

We may not always hear the voice of the shepherd.  But I know where we are called.

Where there is life.  Where there is love.  

Wherever we can bring life and be love.

That is where our pastures are.

May God be Praised.

IMAGE ATTRIBUTION: Peterson, Kathleen. Other Sheep, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=58583 [retrieved May 1, 2023]. Original source: Kathleen Peterson, https://www.kathleenpetersonart.com.

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