by Elise Harris
Reflecting on the image of the Good Shepherd, Pope Francis said his is the only voice that leads us to safety and friendship with God, and cautioned against the false wisdom of those who confuse and deter us from this path.
“It is not always easy to distinguish the voice of the Good Shepherd. There is always the danger of the thief, the robber and the false shepherd,” the Pope said May 7.
“There is always the risk of being distracted by the clamor of many other voices,” he said, and invited faithful “to not allow ourselves to be diverted by the false wisdoms of this world, but to follow Jesus, the Risen one, as the only sure guide that gives meaning to our lives.”
Francis spoke to pilgrims during his Sunday Regina Coeli address, which coincided with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Shortly before leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, he presided over Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he ordained 10 men to the priesthood.
In his address, the Pope pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from John, which recounts the parable of the Good Shepherd. He said the passage gives us two images: the image of the shepherd, and the image of the gate to the fold of sheep.
“The flock, which is all of us, has as a home a fold that gives refuge, where the sheep abide and rest after the fatigue of the journey,” the Pope said, noting that there are two people in the passage who try to draw near to the flock.
One of these people is the shepherd, and the second is a stranger, “who does not love the sheep,” Francis said, explaining that Jesus identifies with the shepherd, “and shows a relationship of familiarity with the sheep.”
This familiarity is expressed through his voice, “with which he calls them and it is recognized and followed,” taking them the “grassy meadows” where they find the nourishment they need, he said.
When Jesus says “‘I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved,’” he is telling the disciples that they will have life and have it in abundance, the Pope said, noting that Christ, the Good Shepherd, “became the door of salvation for humanity, because he offered his life for his sheep.”
“Jesus, the good shepherd and gate for the sheep, is a leader whose authority is expressed through service, a leader who to command gives his life and doesn’t ask others to sacrifice it,” he said.
“In a leader such as this one can trust, like the sheep who listened to the voice of their shepherd because they know that with him they go to good and abundant pastures,” he said, noting that one signal is all that’s needed and the sheep follow.
They follow the shepherd, “they obey, they walk guided by the voice of him who they feel is a friendly, strong and sweet presence, who guides, protects, consoles and heals,” the Pope said, adding that “this is Christ for us.”
While we might at times feel “a bit in the dark” when it comes to the spiritual and affective dimension of Christian life, Pope Francis cautioned against the temptation to “rationalize the faith too much.”
By doing this, we “risk losing the perception of the stamp of that voice, the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who stimulates and fascinates,” he said, explaining that for Jesus, we are never strangers, but “friends and brothers.
He closed his address asking Mary to accompany the 10 new priests he ordained, and asked her to sustain “the many who are called by him, so that they are ready and generous in following his voice.”