There’s a great Newfoundland song I often sing to my grandchildren. Its called Sarah and its sung by the group called Buddy Whasisname and the Other Fellas. The chorus is an invite from Sarah’s boyfriend and somewhat haunting: “Sarah, Sarah, won’t you come out tonight. Sarah, Sarah, the moon is shining bright. Put your hat and jacket on. Tell your mother you won’t be long. And I’ll be waitin’ for you ’round the corner.”
My grandchildren now sing this song, complete with a slight Newfie accent! I once told my daughter that when I die, I want the last line of the chorus to be my epitaph: “I’ll be waitin’ for you ’round the corner.” Her response was: “Dad, that’s creepy!”
But really, I think there’s something very deep about the meaning and transition of our lives and how it’s tied up with the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are told by Jesus to no longer fear death. We have an eternal inheritance waiting for us. St. Paul’s cry: “death where is your sting?” reminds us that while life on earth is short, we have an eternal banquet awaiting us “just around the corner”!
The Easter season is filled with stories of encounters with the risen Lord. Like ripples in a lake, these stories give us a glimpse into the ever-expanding news of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death. His appearances give renewed hope to his band of believers. He also prepares them for a time when they will no longer see him face to face. He invites them to listen for his voice.
In our first reading today, Paul and Barnabas are looking for those who would be open to receiving this Good News. Finding the door closed with the Jewish leadership, they turn to the gentiles for a more receptive audience. Although their message will cost them their lives, they have great confidence in the promise of Jesus that eternal life awaits them.
The second reading is from the Book of Revelation. This book in the Bible is meant to stir us into hope even when faced with persecution. Many in that generation of courageous Christians died for their faith and are honoured in a special way in heaven. “May the company of martyrs praise you!” So goes a litany of prayer and blessing. What is held in balance here is a passion for living today against the backdrop of an eternal inheritance. The Irish call this “living in the thin places,” that is, living with confidence in an eternal promise of Jesus.
Today’s Gospel takes us to a more personal level of faith; that place where we hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, calling us, directing us toward his reign. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.” Jesus uses this image of sheep and shepherd multiple times in the Gospels. He knows his audience. It’s like using the images of fishing in Newfoundland, grain farming on the prairies, ranching in Alberta, or forestry in British Columbia. These are all pillars of the culture in a particular region. People from there share in a common knowledge about how things go.
Everyone knew in Jesus’ day, how shepherds cared for their sheep. They knew that sheep shared a common pasture with other flocks. They also knew that shepherds controlled their own flock by the particular sound of their voice or whistle. So when a pasture land had given out, and they had to travel to a new pasture, the shepherd would call his sheep. His sheep knew his voice and would respond by following him.
So here is the Easter question: Do you hear the voice of Jesus? How is he calling you? Is his call a soft, gentle voice that beckons? Or is it a loud and thunderous voice? Like Mary Magdelene who mistook him for a gardener, it is often only when we hear him call us by name that we recognize his presence.
There are many voices clamouring for our attention, but the voice of Jesus is one we must hear through the din. Its a voice of beckoning, a voice of mercy, a voice of love. Listen for it. You just might hear him softly sing with a slight Newfie accent: “And I’ll be waitin’ for you ’round the corner!”
Williston is a retired Parish Life Director for the Diocese of Saskatoon and a former missionary with the Redemptorists. He is also a song writer and recording artist.