The Familiar Voice

Fourth Sunday of Easter-A

Every voice is unique and, over time, becomes familiar. Even the tame beasts grazing in pastures soon learn to hear the voice of their master and come to know the shepherd is nonpredatory and safe. Throughout history, Christians have come to rely on Psalm 23 during times of tragedy to bring peace and comfort, “The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I lack. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.”

Jesus expounds on the ancient metaphor in today’s Gospel. “The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

There is something powerful about the Voice.  The Voice was there at the very beginning.  It was the Voice that created everything. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God said, ‘let there be light,’ God also declared, ‘let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures,’ God also announced, ‘let us make man in our image.”  The Voice creates out of nothing and has never been silenced. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  That same voice again speaks, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  The Voice assumes the life of those he created, taking the world’s sins upon himself. 

The same Voice who assumed our human flesh said to the cripple, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”  A compassionate and healing Voice.  The Voice spoke again, Lazarus, come out!  The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.”  The Voice of God continued, Untie him and let him go.”  The same Voice, now risen, meets Mary, who is in haste on the first day of the week, telling her, Do not be afraid.  Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  The Voice assures his beloved that death has finally been destroyed.

In the Easter stories about the risen Lord’s appearances, the disciple’s eyes were often prevented from recognizing him.  We heard it last week on the road to Emmaus.  We see it on the distant shore of the Sea of Tiberias when the risen One provides plenty of fish for the castaway disciples.  Not recognizing the resurrected and living Christ is not uncommon, even for Jesus’ band of close followers. 

The Voice, in what it says, and to whom it is spoken are how the frightened and discouraged disciples discover their Lord. 

Lazarus, come out!

Mary, it is me.

Peter, feed my sheep.

Our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way?

The sheep hear his voice as he calls them by name.

When the risen Lord speaks to his people, they realize that the one crucified, died, and was buried is now with them again.  The sheep will follow because they recognize his voice.”  What the eyes conceal, the soul reveals. There is something about the Voice.

It is not only the Voice of God that brings all meaning of life into clarity but also those who work as instruments of God, using their voices to soothe a savage world.  The parent’s voice comforts and secures the sleeping child who longs for care and nurturing. The encouraging voice of someone we love dissipates the disappointments of a lousy day.  Even a distant voice over a phone line can bring peace and security. 

There is something about the Voice. The Voice that comes directly from God and indirectly through others is our only true refuge. It always has been, and it will always be.

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