The Gospel reading on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, speaks of unity. Of unity between the shepherd and his sheep, and the Father and the Son, a unity which offers safety and eternal life.
‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
There are two sources, two causes, of the unity. The most fundamental is the relationship of Father and Son, united in strength and power, compassion and mercy. The second is the readiness of the ‘sheep’ to listen.
Listening is much, much more than hearing. Hearing is a more or less physical act only. We hear all sorts of things – the hum of a central heating system, the song of birds, the rumble of traffic. These noises may be pleasing or not, reassuring or not, but they do not detain or engage us. When we listen, something more is going on. We do engage, reflect, consider: there is an openness to understanding, to responding, and – as here – to following.
It is for this reason that at Mass, in the Liturgy of the Word especially, the quality that is expected to characterise our participation is meditation – not just the word read, and listening, but hearing and, even more, pondering. This requires a certain silence and space. It means that after a reading there is a pause for us to consider what we have heard, and for us to respond in silent and personal prayer together before we proceed.
- How much silence/ how much space for listening is there in your parish’s celebration of the Liturgy of the Word?
- Where recently have you been moved to safer pasture by listening to the voice of the shepherd, the word?
Christ the Shepherd. Duncan Grant. Lincoln Cathedral. (C) 2010, Allen Morris.