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Liturgy and Life

By Bob Williston


Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2017


Acts 2:14a-36b-41
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:20b-25
John 10:1-10

My mother was a non-licensed real estate dealer when I was growing up. We moved on an average of once every 10 months, as she bought a fixer-upper and with some paint and a few improvements would sell it for a little more than what she paid for it. Since this was in Vancouver in the 1950s and ’60s, I can’t imagine the money she could have made if she were wheeling and dealing in today’s market!

There was always one remark she would make when looking at a potential house to buy that seemed undesirable to her. “It’s so UNINTERESTING!” she would say. I can just hear her voice, as clear as if it were yesterday.

Rev. David Cottingham was my partner on the Redemptorist Mission Team for almost 30 years. As summer ended and the fall schedule of missions came closer, David would say: “I’m starting to paw at the ground,” anxious to get on the road and start a new year of travel. I can hear his voice as if it were yesterday.

My Uncle Mark from Toronto came to our wedding in Sarnia. When asked to get up and say a few words, my uncle said: “Well, Sarnia isn’t the end of the world . . . but you can see it from there!” That was 40 years ago and I can still hear him complete with all the comedic timing and delivery of a Jack Benny.

What are the voices you hear in your head and heart? Is it the voice of a spouse, parent, a teacher, a sibling? What are the ones that have stuck with you over the years and do you recall the events surrounding the voices?

Most especially, the voices in our heads that put us down, belittle us, or make us feel less than valuable are voices that create great difficulties when it comes to building self-confidence, self-esteem and courage to take risks. Rev. Henry Nouwen calls this putting ourselves “under the curse.” The negative things that are repeated over and over seem to affirm or confirm something we feel is negative or bad about us. We seem to hear these negative voices more loudly than the positive ones.

Henry Nouwen suggests we ought to strengthen the positive voices that come our way. He calls this “putting ourselves under the blessing.” Peter, in today’s second reading, has a tender way of addressing us. He calls us “Beloved.” He reminds us that Jesus has borne our sins in his body. Though we have strayed, we have been called back by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He reminds us that Jesus will be the “guardian of our souls.”

So, planting the voice of Jesus in our hearts and minds will mean we can put our very selves under the protection of his blessing. He will guard over us. We can trust in him.

Jesus would often say he heard the voice of his Father. “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” Even in the depths of his suffering, Jesus would cry out for the voice of his Father. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

I’m sure it was a sunny pastoral scene that came to mind when Jesus said to his disciples: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Where and when have you heard the voice of Jesus calling your name? How do you distinguish between his voice and your own inner voice? What events in your life have led you to realize it was really his voice and not your own?

Sometimes it takes moments of silence, listening to his word, some prayer, some good spiritual direction and some deeper reflection into the mystery of his presence in and around us to better have an ear tuned to the voice of the Lord. But it almost always is a voice attached to some event. It could be a tragic one, like someone’s death or illness. It could be a positive thing, like the birth of a newborn or getting a new job.

Jesus reminds us today in the Gospel that his voice is one that will lead and guide us. His voice will console, challenge and prod us into new pastures, new possibilities and new ways of approaching life. His resurrection is our assurance of final victory over sin and death. Cling to his voice. Listen to his calling and mission and he will lead you.

In honour of my Uncle Mark’s life, I wrote a song for his funeral that fits with the Shepherd’s voice in today’s Gospel:

“We’ll hear your voice in the times when we gather.
We’ll hear your voice in the stories we tell.
We’ll hear your voice in the sunshine and laughter.
We’ll hear your voice, telling us all is well.”

Come to think of it, wasn’t this the way the Gospel message of Jesus first got told? The disciples began by describing his actions and his message. In that way, they could keep in their memories the voice of Jesus and what he said in different places. May the voice of the risen Lord be in your heart always!

Happy and blessed Easter Season, Beloved!

Williston gives parish missions and is a former missionary with the Redemptorists. He is also a song writer and recording artist.