The Voice of the Shepherd

by Fr. Denis Lemieux

“I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11, Fourth Sunday of Easter).

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Hello there, fellow sheep! Happy Easter to you all! How’s it going for you—life in the sheepfold of Christ, that is?

Well … as we round the corner to spring of 2021, that might be considered to be “a loaded question.”. If you are anything like me and the people I interact with in my priestly ministry on a regular basis, you might not be on quite the smoothest stretch of road you’ve ever been on.

As the COVID pandemic stretches on from weeks … to months … to a year and counting—with no clear end-date in sight—the burden is wearing on people, at least so far as I can see and know. It is not the easiest of times.

I realize that Restoration reaches around the world to people of many lands. I realize that there is great variety in people’s experiences, and in how people are able to process their experience of this past year. As has been said by wiser and better writers than me, “We are all in the same flood, but we are most definitely not all in the same boat.”

So the experiences of Restoration readers may vary to a considerable degree in terms of access to the sacraments (the most important criterion of all), economic suffering, social isolation, personal danger of serious sickness, and consequent emotional distress from all of the above.

This article is geared more towards those of you who (to extend the boat metaphor) find yourselves more in the “row boat and rubber dinghy” class than those ones who have more seaworthy and spacious pandemic accommodations.

But really, for each and all of us, the deeper call of this pandemic time is found in the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter on April 25. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and mine know me (John 10-14).

Life can be easy; life can be hard; life can be somewhere in between. And life in this world is always changing back and forth between its relative ease and difficulty. A vain hope for safety is any human worldly strategy for happiness, prosperity, health, and peace.

All of us, if we are blessed with the gift of faith, come to know in time that the only real security we have is the sheepfold of the Shepherd.

It may be hard at times to find that sheepfold or at least to truly know ourselves and our lives to be held secure therein. This does not make it less true that we are indeed held secure in the love of the Shepherd; it just means that this love and security do not take away the dimension of struggle and sorrow in this life.

He knows us, you know. Whatever your life is right now, whatever mine is, he knows. Which doesn’t mean we can’t tell him about it, pour out our hearts before him. We should.

But he knows you, you know? You’re not alone. None of us is alone, even if the pandemic protocols have made some of us feel the pain of loneliness and isolation to an acute degree.

If you are one of these people, try to make your solitary bubble more and more not a brutal imposition on you by an uncaring society, but rather a trysting place, a sanctuary, a bridal chamber, or to put it in Madonna House terminology, a poustinia.

For all of us, even if we are blessed to spend this pandemic-time with many people to support us and much wealth (pandemic-privilege, as our contemporary lingo might put it) of relationship and connection, are called nonetheless and just as much to enter into a place within where the Good Shepherd feeds his flock and discloses the depths of his love to us.

I lay down my life for my sheep (John 10:15). This is the knowledge, the secret hidden knowledge which is nonetheless given to all who will receive it, the knowledge that carries us through our lives whatever they may hold.

With this knowledge, the “boat” in which we are riding, no matter how fragile it seems, miraculously becomes a mighty ocean liner secure from the worst ravages of the sea.

Without this knowledge, even the most luxurious and well-appointed yachts are vulnerable to inevitable wreckage. (Watch out for that iceberg! … Too late!).

And so, dear readers, however it’s going for you, whatever 2021 is bringing you and will bring you, my prayer is that we all can enter the poustinia of the heart—that we all can find ourselves this Easter Season where we truly are—loved by the Shepherd of our souls. And in that love, may we find new hope, courage, and peace in our journey.

And in that hope, too, may we choose each day to love all the scattered sheep who need to hear the voice of the Shepherd.

We can be that voice for them, if we believe, if we hope, if we love.

Happy Easter!  Christ is risen! Alleluia!