I hear voices. Don't we all.

Tom Bartolomeo
4th Sunday Easter C 2013
Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100;
Revelation 7:9,14b-17; John 10: 27-30
Reproduced with Permission

"My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Of course, we often hear what we want to hear, don't we? Sheep, pets and little children learn to associate certain voices and sounds with pleasing experiences for food, protection, shelter and comfort. Treat them well, and they will follow you or at least not run off. 'Coo coo' and smile at a child and he will return the favor. As adults our reactions are more complicated. It isn't simply the sound of another's voice we respond to but the meaning - spoken or unspoken behind the voice. It often comes down to trust.

"My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Of course, Jesus wasn't talking about sheep herding. He was saying that once we truly know him then we will follow him. But then there are other voices which lie and drown out his voice. Chief among these are the personal lies we justify. Strong language, I admit, but I am simply quoting Jesus' "beloved Apostle" John, "Whoever says, 'I have come to know him [Jesus],' but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist . . ." (1 John 2:4). Am I a 'liar?' Potentially, yes. Why I need a shepherd to guide me. I unreservedly accept as my own the confession of Saint Paul, "I am content with weakness that the power of Christ can rest upon me . . . for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12, 9-10). "Through him, and with him and in him", we confess at Mass.

"My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Many Catholics today have become Protestant, protestors who can only find fault with the Church as it was in the beginning. We have only to read The Acts of the Apostles to know that. Consider the story of Barnabas and Paul in Antioch. Paul who in his own words had "persecuted the Church" as a convert was persecuted himself as a follower of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15, 9).

Today we have many inside and outside the Church who oppose the teachings of the Church on abortion, contraception and marriage especially. Many are prominent Catholics in the media and government. Then there are those members of the Church who have disgraced their calling, nuns, priests and bishops which the enemies of the Church are all too quick to condemn. Have we every stopped and wondered why Christ chose Judas as an Apostle? Didn't he know? Was that a mistake of judgement? The Apostle's knew that he was thief. Yet Jesus had him hold the cash box for the Apostles who had their failings as well. (Why would I want to be a member of a church who would accept me as a member, nonetheless ordain me a priest!) Yet, before he bodily returned to his Father in heaven Jesus gave his Apostles, "the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth", he said, "will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16,18-20). Had Judas repented he, too, would have had one of the "keys of the kingdom of heaven."

Repentance is hard, no doubt, but there is no comradery in sin. If we want reasons why our spouses and children do not relate well enough with us consider our hypocrisy. If we hardly or ever openly speak about our relationship with God or our love of God why would we wonder if our relationships with our spouses, children and others are so lacking? I find it amazing that a majority of our parishioners who send their children to our school frequently do not attend Sunday Mass with their children and then wonder why their children grow so distant over the years. Learn one thing at school and practice something else at home. What kind of a lie is that? I'm not condemning anyone, mind you, since I, too, am a sinner. I am just revealing the lies we personally condone in ourselves. When the authorities of the Jews, for example, brought a woman to Jesus "caught in adultery" - and how did they know? - they wanted Christ to condemn her, but they were caught in their own lies when Jesus told them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8, 7). The authorities then quietly pealed away and left the woman alone with Jesus who told her, Don't you sin, too. In their pride, unmoved by their shame, the authorities continued to harass Jesus, intent on finding some pretext to kill him. Nothing personal about Jesus just his teachings. They couldn't discredit his message so they tried to discredit him. "You are trying to kill me," Jesus told them, "a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. . . . Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word?

Then Jesus sternly warned them: You are from your father the devil . . . . He was a murderer from the beginning . . . he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8 ff). Let me repeat what John the Apostle said, "Whoever says, 'I have come to know him [Jesus],' but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist . . .". All the while having at our disposal his Sacrament of Mercy, Penance, which Christ freely gave us. What a wonder, however, how Christ recently raised up from among a good shepherd, Pope Francis, who is already calling us, clergy and laity, to follow him in a reformation of the Church. I will share with you a recent article and commentary on Pope Francis.

Before his election, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglia identified what he believes is the Church's fundamental illness: "ecclesiastical narcissism." "When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize," he said, "it becomes self-referential and then it gets sick." That inward-looking Church, which doesn't look sufficiently to Christ and doesn't reflect him, his light and his love for those walking in darkness, quickly succumbs to what he called the worst evil of all, a "spiritual worldliness . . . living in itself, of itself, for itself." . . . A Church that limits herself to administering parish work, that lives enclosed within a community, experiences what someone in prison does: physical and mental atrophy." . . . A Church that merely protects its small flock, that gives all or most of its attention to its faithful clientele, he believes, "is a 'Church that is sick." . . . "We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease. And the laity - not all but many - ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap - it is sinful complicity." Clericalism ails the clergy when they become too self-referential, the sanctuary, rather than . . . bringing the gospel to the world. Clericalism ails the clergy when they become too self-referential rather than missionary. But it affects laypeople worse, when they begin to believe that the fundamental service God is asking of them is to become greeters, lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Church rather than to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and beyond.[1]