Paschaltide 2007: May 2009 Archives

Ade Good Shepherd.jpg

Readers familiar with the work of Adé Béthune will recognize here her Good Shepherd. Clean lines, simplicity, and strength characterize Adé's work. She has had an enduring influence on my life since my apprenticeship to her in the early 1970s. Ade shared my passion for Gregorian Chant. One of her favourite expressions was, "Plain Chant for plain folk." More about Adé here.

Fourth Sunday of Paschaltide

Good Shepherd Sunday

The Voice of the Shepherd

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, the Lord Jesus says, "My sheep will hear My voice" (Jn 10:16). For the sheep of His flock, the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd has a uniquely penetrating quality, an unmistakable accent of tenderness, a note of divine authority that goes straight to the heart. The believing heart leaps with recognition at the sound of Jesus' voice. "The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out" (Jn 10:3).

Say Only the Word

The word of Christ accomplishes what it expresses. Just before approaching the altar for Holy Communion, we will pray in the words of the centurion, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but say only the word, and my soul shall be healed" (Lk 7:6-7). Our hearts may be frozen in an icy indifference. They may be shriveled up in the desert wastes of sin, or numbed by a secret pain. Even so, the psalmist sings, "He sends forth His word and it melts them; at the breath of His mouth the waters flow" (Ps 147:18).

Listen with the Ear of the Heart

To listen to the voice of Jesus with the ear of the heart is the first step in any relationship with Him. In the book of the Apocalypse He says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Ap 3:20-21). Intimacy with Christ the Good Shepherd requires a listening heart. A listening heart will be a vulnerable heart. To listen with the ear of the heart is to open oneself to the other; it is to risk relationship. When the heart stops listening to the other, relationship -- communion with the other -- begins to disintegrate. This is true of friendship. It is true of marriage. It is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Good Portion

Recall that in Saint Luke's gospel, Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and of Martha, seated herself at the Lord's feet and stayed there listening to His words (Lk 10:39). Mary of Bethany was like a lamb resting at her shepherd's feet, and Jesus praised her listening heart. "Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:42). The Song of Songs interprets her experience, "With great delight I sat in His shadow, and His fruit was sweet to my taste" (Ct 2:3), and again, "His speech is most sweet, He is altogether desirable" (Ct 5:16). This is the experience of all who, down through the ages, have stilled and quieted their hearts to listen to the voice of the Shepherd Christ. Our relationship with Christ necessarily expresses itself in action -- and in words -- but it begins in listening. This listening in adoring silence is, to borrow Dom Chautard's expression, the soul of the apostolate.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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