24 April 2010

Movements of the Human Heart

In the Gospel we’ll hear at this weekend’s liturgy (Saint John 10:27-30), Jesus says: ‘My sheep hear My Voice’. Every word in this Gospel passage is spoken by Jesus. When read slowly and meditatively, there is an encompassing sense of intimacy that cannot be expressed in words; and Jesus desires to have that intimacy with each and every one of us.

We are His sheep who hear His Voice and follow Him. Through prayer, sacred reading and charitable works it becomes vividly clear that if we so desire, Our Lord’s love will consume us; and He assures us that no one can take us away from Him. Christ's enfolding and loving embrace offers comfort in times of trial and also carries us into eternal life.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Saint Matthew 18:10-14) is a reassuring reminder that Jesus wishes all to be saved and desires not to lose any of His sheep. At Mass the Voice of Jesus is heard in the Liturgy of the Word; and the Word of God, the Bread of Life, nourishes our souls as Our Lord makes Himself present to us truly, really and substantially in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Anyone who lives in the Middle East might have a clearer understanding of what Jesus means when He says: ‘My sheep hear My Voice; I know them, and they follow Me’. Many of us have never witnessed a shepherd and his sheep interact.

Father Benedict Groeschel, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, as well as an author, psychologist, and well-known EWTN personality, once shared a story of his visit to the Holy Land in which he watched shepherds work with their sheep. He said that there were a bunch of sheep walking around, along with three shepherds. He said that the shepherds split up and each walked into a different direction, and then made a whistling sound with their mouths. The sheep, which were all bunched together, then began to divide and walk towards the direction of their own particular shepherd; each of them recognized their own shepherd’s whistle and followed him.

It is the human heart that hears the Voice of the Chief Shepherd. And He speaks to the heart in the silence and stillness of meditation and contemplation. The human heart is a living altar from which He Who sacrificed Himself, rests -- a Sacrifice which enabled Him to fulfil His own words: ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish’ (Saint John 10:28). When we are able to remain in His Presence through prayer, Adoration and most especially in partaking of His Most Precious Body and Blood, then we have the necessary weapons to feel His Presence even in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. And when we can do that, our very lives become a liturgy.