Hearing the Shepherd’s voice
Let me begin with a story. One day a newly installed pastor walked around the streets of his new parish to acquaint himself with the people of the neighborhood. One of his first stops was at the local shoemaker’s shop.
The pastor talked to the cobbler, using, at times, some lofty theological language. The cobbler replied with keen understanding and deep spiritual insight that left the pastor astonished. “You shouldn’t be cobbling shoes,” stated the pastor. “A man with your understanding and clear manner of expressing those thoughts should not be doing such menial work.”
The cobbler was quick to reply, “Pastor, you better take that back now!” “Take what back?” asked the pastor.
“Take back,” responded the cobbler, “that I’m doing menial, secular work. Do you see that pair of boots on the shelf? They belong to the son of Widow Smith, whose husband died last year. She’s supported by her only child, who manages to keep a roof over their heads by working outdoors every day. I hear bad weather is in the forecast, and I felt the Lord saying to me, ‘Will you cobble Widow Smith’s boy some shoes so he won’t catch cold and come down with some sickness?’ I replied, ‘Certainly, Lord, I will.’”
Looking at the pastor, the cobbler said, “Pastor, you preach your sermons under God’s direction, I trust. And I will cobble that boy’s boots under God’s direction. Then, one day, when the final rewards are given out, the Harvest Master will say to you and to me the same approving pronouncement—‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’”
In today’s gospel Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Sometimes, we can make following Jesus something high-falutin and important sounding, and somehow separated from everyday life. Sometimes, we limit the word “vocation” to a calling within the Church to the priesthood or the religious life. But the story of the cobbler and the pastor reminds us that, no matter what we are doing, we can bring God into our everyday life by listening to the voice of the Shepherd and allowing his words make a difference in how we do things.
Recently, I came across a rewording of Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes—a wording that helps to bring the high-sounding words of the Bible down into the everyday. Here are a few examples…
Blessed are they who grieve for the lost and struggle to cope and continue—the single parent trying to raise a family alone, the mother or father who keep an open heart and outreached hand to the wayward son or daughter—for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they who find their joy in the happiness of others—the devoted parent, the dedicated teacher—for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who manage to see beyond their own interests and needs to the greater common good and their responsibility to others—for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are they who treat classmates, coworkers and employees with respect and dignity, who remember that they have been forgiven by a compassionate God and readily extend forgiveness and compassion to others—for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, those who possess that rare gift for bringing people together when anger and selfishness threaten to drive them apart, who readily take the first step in forgiving and being reconciled with others, who bring healing to those who have been hurt, forgotten or marginalized—for they are the sons and daughters of God.
And, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, who does these things better than mothers? Here’s one story, one tribute to mothers…
The harried young mother was beside herself when the telephone rang, and she heard with relief the kindly voice on the line, “Hi, sweetheart. How are you?”
“Oh Mother,” she said, breaking into tears, “it’s been an awful day. The baby won’t eat, the dishwasher broke down. I tripped up the stairs and sprained my ankle. I haven’t had a chance to go shopping and the house is a mess. And to top it off, we’re having company for dinner tonight.”
“There, there, darling, everything will be all right,” the soothing voice on the line said. “Now sit down, relax, and close your eyes. I’ll be over in half an hour. I’ll pick up a few things and cook dinner for you. I’ll take care of the house and feed the baby. Also, I’ll call a repairman I know who will be at your house to fix the washer this afternoon. Now stop crying. In fact, I’ll call George at the office and tell him to come home early.”
“George?” the distraught wife exclaimed. “Who’s George?”
“Why, George…you know, George, your husband!”
“But my husband’s name is Frank.”
A brief pause ensued, then the voice hesitantly asked, “Excuse me, is this 555-1758?” A tearful reply said, “No, this is 555-1788.”
“Oh, my, what a dreadful mistake,” apologized the embarrassed voice on the phone. “I’m so terribly sorry. I must have dialed the wrong number.”
Another brief pause before the would-be daughter asked, “Does this mean you’re not coming over?”
To all mothers, who hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow him…Happy Mother’s Da