In John’s Gospel this week, the people of God are compared to a flock of sheep. It’s a repeated comparison throughout the Old and New Testament, with images of God and Jesus being presented as our Shepherd.
The connection between the sheep and the shepherd is one very few of us see or experience in our daily lives in 2023. The shepherd and the sheep develop their relationship over time – learning about each other. There needs to be a building of trust. The sheep develop a sense of comfort and calm as a result of positive experiences of being cared for and nurtured – of being led to green pastures and being protected from harm. They learn to recognise the sounds of the shepherd, of the shepherd’s voice and even their own name.
For me, the relationship is a little like the bond between a mother and her child.
Ron Rolheiser shares the experience of many babysittters who, when given the responsibility of looking after a baby, manage to keep a little one placated, entertained and engaged for a while – but when (and it is usually when!) the babe starts to become distressed and restless, there is only one voice that will soothe it. Only one heartbeat and embrace that will bring calm. There is only one person the child wants – the one who has loved the child into being.
When our souls become restless, when it feels like everything is closing in, it’s easy to seek comfort from the flock or to look for distractions from all that is going on around us. It’s easy to sense danger, move to a place of fear or to take on the negativity or panic of the bodies closest to us.
During this Easter season, perhaps we can challenge ourselves instead to listen intently for the voice of our mothering God.
How can we find ways to listen for and recognise the voice that speaks to our soul?
How can we make space to hear God call us by our name?
How can we allow ourselves to be led to a place of calm and comfort in times of chaos?
How can we find ways to accept the invitation to live life abundantly?
How can we allow the Shepherd to help us sing the Alleluia from the deepest part of our heart?