The Lord’s Voice

Good Shepherd Sunday, Latin Mass
Friends in Christ, years back in my other parish, I visited an older lady who was nearing the end of life; as we spoke, some unsettling questions came up; I had reassured her that Jesus was with her in her discomfort, that she is not alone, Christ himself lives in her, with her. Her response: where is that in the bible, that Jesus is within me? I quoted her Galatians, chapter 2.
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Then she was asking how a priest can forgive our sins in confession, when that’s not in the bible.  This was a Catholic!  I explained to her where that also is in the Holy Scriptures, and as she seemed somewhat reassured, she confided, that her caregiver is an ex-Catholic, part of another denomination, and is always trying to pick apart her faith. She said, ‘Father, my previous caregiver was also this way!’ I said, that’s crazy, to have to deal with that when you are not feeling well.
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Friends, there are many voices out there trying to confuse good Catholics. For sure, secular voices try to lure us away from God, but there are also subtle voices that try to confuse, under the cloak of so-called-Christianity. The early church knew about this. St. Peter says there were people then, who are, as he says, ‘ignorant and unstable who distort the scriptures to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16) So, it’s not new.
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A young college woman in our parish was praying in the Adoration Chapel recently; she picked up some of the little books people leave around, to read and pray with. She says, ‘As I was reading it said that Jesus’ resurrection was only as a spirit-being, not bodily, and that there is no hell;’ ‘I was like, this seems totally wrong.’ Yes, I said, ‘totally wrong!’ It was a pamphlet put there by Jehovah witnesses. In our Adoration chapel! ‘I asked her, did you —– Yes Father! Into the garbage!
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Today in the gospel, Our Lord calls himself the Good Shepherd. In this passage of St. John’s gospel, the Lord, in teaching how he leads his sheep, he contrasts himself with hirelings and strangers. ‘The sheep hear my voice,’ he says, the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger, they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.’
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Many voices abound, these days. The person who grows up in a good Catholic home can often develop an instinct for following the True voice of Christ and is not easily led away by the voice of strangers. But the voices can be crafty. For myself, having grown up in a Catholic home, when I went away to college, a bit naïve, some friendly students invited me to a gathering for Christians. I said, ‘I’m a Catholic Christian; they assured me, I’d fit right in.’
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Well, there I met a lot of nice people – especially girls – but as the evening progressed and we listened to talks, warning bells started going off in my head. At first, a sense that this just didn’t feel right; then, outright wrong things being said against my faith. Time to go.
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We can’t listen to every voice that comes along, only the voice of the True Shepherd. ‘The sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice, but they will not follow a stranger.’ So, we want to keep the Lord’s true voice speaking to us.
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We’ve mentioned before the importance of spiritual reading each day, in addition to our prayers. But we can’t choose our books by browsing the ‘spirituality’ section at Barnes and Nobles. no way. Mostly problematic. And we have to know for example, that the History Channel makes up some wacky stuff about early Christianity, and then mixes it in with truth to feed us a delicious story.
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As parents, we carefully scrutinize videos and children’s books to be sure that they are faithful to the True Faith. Some materials not produced by Catholics might be useful, but they must be checked over. How many people are no doubt lost in hell because they allowed themselves to be led away by a stranger’s voice, and even lead children and others away from the Truth given to us by Christ. St. Paul warns again and again about deceivers: ‘Let no one deceive you in any way.’ (2 Thess 2:3) And again: Beware of people who are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. (2 Cor 11:13) And again, in Galatians: ‘There are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ….let them be accursed.
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Also, St. Jude says in his epistle: there are those who ‘deride what they do not know; woe to them, for they have gone the way of Cain, and have rushed into the error of Balam; for them the storm of darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:10
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The True Shepherd is asking us to follow his voice, not that of strangers. St. Alphonsus says, ‘O loving Shepherd of Thy sheep! Thou hast spent, not all Thy riches, but all Thy Blood for them.[i] This is the kind of Shepherd we have.
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We have not always been good sheep of this loving Savior, at times we are the goats. Abbott William of Paris says, the goats, which are sinners, they are entrusted to Mother Mary, that she might change them into sheep. Mary, pray for us, that we will be sheep of Christ’s pasture, and listen always, to his sweet voice.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Luke]

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[i] Incarnation, p. 417

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