I have a friend of mine who is a great lover of classical music. His knowledge of it is vast. He only needs to hear a few bars of most musical works and he confidently declares, "Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A" or "Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring". He’s always right. Another of his superfluous, but amusing gifts is to pick the singer. He can hear a soprano and declare it to be Callas, Te Kanawa or Sutherland. He knows which of the three Tenors is belting out that particular top C. Again, he’s almost always right. What intrigues me about this gift is that he remembers the timbres of each voice, not just the famous ones, but some rather obscure soloists as well. It helps that he has listened to the sound of these voices for years. It’s the same with recognising the voice of Christ – it comes with practice and exposure to it. In our world there are a multitude of voices clamouring for attention. The loudest or the longest voices we hear are not always the wisest ones. Jesus invites us to attune our listening to the sound of his voice so that even if it is faintly heard amidst the noise, we can lift our heads, turn our gaze and walk towards it. More than ever, there are some voices which entice us away from the Gospel. We are told that it is impossible to be happy unless we are wealthy. Impossible to be fulfilled unless we are sexually active with several partners. Impossible to be free unless we answer to no one. And in this crowded marketplace the voice of Jesus keeps saying the same thing it’s been saying for two thousand years. Happiness is found in sharing what we can with the poor, in being faithful and loving in all our relationships, and in surrendering our freedom to the service of His kingdom of justice and peace. The problem is not that Jesus should yell more loudly, it is that at crucial moments in our lives, when we have to make important decisions, we often close our ears. We refuse to listen to any other voice except that one that reinforces the destructive decision we want to make. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that this choice can be a moment of death. What his call offers is life and life abundantly. But at various times we blot it out and tune our hearing elsewhere. There are, however, at least two times in our lives when we respond immediately to the sound of a loving voice: as a baby and in old age. A parent’s voice soothes and reassures a baby like no other. Look at how a screaming child calms down as a mother nurses it. And look at how a loved one’s voice comforts and gives confidence to an older person when they’re distressed or disoriented. What wonderful images these very human moments provide in terms of hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd. At the moment of our death, in the midst of all the other sounds we hear as we leave this world we will hear Christ’s voice - soothing, reassuring, comforting and confident. And, it’s our prayer, that at that moment we will do what we have tried to do throughout our lives - we will walk straight toward it. Now that will be life, and life abundantly. Richard Leonard, S.J.
4th Sunday of Easter