May 7, 2022 Essay: The Voice of the Shepherd
“I saw her first. No, I saw her first. No, I saw her first, well, she’s, my mommy. Yes, and she is my daughter. And she was born before you!” This conversation took place often between my mother and my son, especially around Mother’s Day. He was very young and did not understand the timeline of my birth in relation to his birth and that his Nanna is his mommy’s mom. Yet, it was both sweet and humorous to see him and my mom “arguing” who saw me first!
However, who really sees us first? Actually, Jesus is the one who sees and hears each of us first. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” As Christians, we trust, have faith in, and listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd. In comparison, we are not unlike sheep who listen to and follow the voice of the shepherd; as children, we hear our mother’s voice for the first time and follow that voice, not the voice of a stranger.
Let us also ponder some attributes of Jesus’ voice as the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd has a compelling voice. Jesus’ voice is strong and direct; he commands the waters to be still, he silences the demons, he forgives sins, and raises the dead. Yet, Jesus has a personal voice; he calls us by name. He knows each one of us intimately- as a parent knows a child. Most of all, Jesus has a loving, congenial voice, there is a melody of peace and harmony that soothes his sheep. His voice reassures those who are fearful of becoming lost and comforts those who have been lost and then are found.
Jesus taught us to go out in Love and to serve humankind as he showed us. He is our teacher, just as a mother is the first teacher to her child. Jesus beckons us to follow him, and he will not allow anyone to be snatched from his or God’s hand. The Shepherd cares for us, is protective of us, guides us, and leads the way. These characteristics are closely aligned with how a mother cares for her children. Jesus is the Shepherd who knows us intimately and calls each one of us by name and is concerned with our safety. Jesus doesn’t have to push or prod us to follow him, rather, he leads by example. He guides us gently on the path to everlasting life. We are with him and God for eternity. Although the bonds may twist and fray, Jesus tells us we are never severed from him. And, even if the bond between mother and child frays, the spiritual bond will remain through the love of Jesus.
This image of Jesus as the Shepherd, by Bob Dufford, S.J., in his hymn, “Like a Shepherd”, mirrors the loving care a mother also gives to her children.
“Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms,
holding them carefully close to his heart, leading them home.
Come unto me if you are heavily burdened,
and take my yoke upon your shoulders, I will give you rest.”
May the loving, compelling and personal voice of the Good Shepherd be heard through the voices of all mothers today as we celebrate Mother’s Day.
Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate