He preached a very fine homily and agreed to let me publish it for you here:
Emma, Elisabeth, Martin, and Hayden. It’s a very special day for you. You’re all dressed up and adults have been telling you lots of things you have to do. You might even be a little nervous. It’s OK, I’m a little nervous, too. Let me tell you what I do, when I get nervous. I think about someplace else, like playing outside, for example. So, I want you to think about yourself running and playing and laughing with some of your best friends or your brothers and sisters. Think of yourself playing down the street from your house. Think of the things you hear, while you’re playing. You hear lots of things: the sound of birds chirping, dogs barking, cars driving down the street, the wind blowing, the sound of bicycles, or friends yelling for you to come and play. Lots of noise and distractions. But, in the middle of all of those noises, you faintly hear your mother or father calling your name. You’re having so much fun. You’re with friends. You don’t want to go home yet. But, you hear their voice.
Let’s talk about mom or dad’s voice for a second. You know it’s your mom or dad’s voice because you recognize their voice. You know their voice because you have heard it from the time you were a baby. You have learned that listening to that voice means being with someone who knows you and who loves you. Someone who cares for you and protects you. You know you should follow your parents and listen to them because you know you belong to them.
You probably didn’t know that that makes you like sheep? Sheep are kindof funny animals. We hear about sheep a lot in the Bible. The Bible tells us a lot about how a good shepherd takes care of his sheep. Sheep also learn their shepherd’s voice and they follow him when he calls. They know that when they hear that voice, that it’s someone who loves them, cares for them, protects them. Someone they should follow.
We hear about sheep in the Bible, because there were lots of sheep and shepherds in the time of Jesus. That’s why he talked about them a lot in the stories he told the people; He knew they’d understand what he was talking about. For example, in the Gospel reading today, that we just heard, John tells us that Jesus said to the people, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.”
Jesus knew that when he said that to the people, that they would immediately understand that he was like a shepherd to them. They would know that he meant he would protect them, care for them, love them, and even give his life for them. He wanted them and us to know that even if we got lost or hurt or were hurt by others, he would be there to comfort us.
But, he’s only there for us when we hear his voice and then decide to follow him. It’s up to each of us. We have a choice. It’s just like being out in the yard playing, we hear mom or dad’s voice calling, but we may not come. We decide whether to listen to our friends or to our parents.
Jesus is calling each of us in the middle of a world full of noise. We have to listen for his voice. We have to want to hear it. We may hear him from time to time in our lives, but we may not decide to follow. It’s up to each of us.
Jesus said, “I know them and they follow me.” What he means is: I know who is mine, by whether they hear me and whether they decide to follow me.
But, what if we’re not be sure we’re hearing Jesus’ voice. Perhaps there’s too much noise in the neighborhood of our life. Perhaps, we haven’t taken a quiet moment to listen. Maybe we’re not sure who we should to listen to. We might even wonder if Christ still speaking to us.
I can assure you, Christ is never absent. The Church is his living Body and he is the Head of the Church, present and active within it. Our priests represent Christ. They teach in the name of Christ, in the very Person of the Risen Christ. Christ really brings about what a priest could not do by himself: the consecration of the bread and wine so that they become His presence, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ, himself. So, you might still be wondering how we hear the voice of Christ, our Shepherd.
He has entrusted that task to bishops, priests and deacons. When we preach, we are His voice. The voice of Truth. We are given the task to be Christ’s voice in a world that will reject it. The voice in the wilderness. The voice of the Good Shepherd. But His sheep will hear His voice. And He knows them and they will follow Him.
Emma, Elisabeth, Martin, and Hayden. Today, you will receive Christ in the Eucharist, for the first time. Let His voice be the guiding source of your lives, from this point forward. If you choose to hear Him, he will love you, care for you, and protect you, no matter what happens to you. He will always be there for you, to listen to you. Pray to Him. Hear His voice. Follow Him.