By Bishop Louis F.
Bishop of Biloxi
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and 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.” (John 10:1-4)
My motto, chosen after I received the call from the Apostolic Nuncio telling me that Pope Francis had chosen me to be the Bishop of Biloxi, is “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This is of course, Psalm 23, but the Scripture that touched my heart to choose this motto is John 10:1-21, The Good Shepherd.
When you read John 10:1-4 quoted above, what stirs you in this reading? It makes me think of the voices we hear daily.
Who are the voices you and your family listen to most frequently, who would be on your list? Whose voice are you and your family members listening to? Do you know who and what your children are listening to?
Being able to recognize our Shepherd’s voice takes some work on our part. It is difficult to hear His voice when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the voices of the world, a reality that is hostile to our faith and hostile to a life rooted in Christ. These voices are no longer “outside” as they were when I was growing up to be met when we walked out the doors of our homes to face the world, but they are in our living rooms, in our bedrooms, in our hands, and in our earbuds.
As we enter into John’s Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter and Jesus says to us, “the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and 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” (John 10:3b-5, emphasis added).
The dilemma has become for many of us, perhaps especially young people because they have grown up always having social media, that we listen to the voices of the world so often that we follow the stranger instead of our Good Shepherd! These are truly voices of strangers that we do not know and that cannot know us or care for us. We no longer run away from the “stranger”, instead, we believe them as if they are from someone we can trust. Our familiarity with voices of this world has drowned out for many the voice of our Good Shepherd. Many of us follow the voice of these strangers rather than our Lord.
In order for us to know when our true Shepherd speaks to us, we begin by listening daily in prayer. This takes practice. We must read His word, we must give Him time to speak to us, and we must listen to Him when He speaks. In addition to listening to the Word of God at Mass, we should set time apart and read and/or listen to Scripture daily.
One of my favorite ways to pray with Scripture is to read or listen to a passage of Scripture several times, and between each reading choose what stands out to me, whether a word or phrase or image, and then I contemplate the word, phrase, or image. What do I think the Lord is saying to me, and how do I respond to His Word? This Lectio Divina prayer form can be done individually, as a couple, and/or as a family. We often use this form of prayer at the beginning of meetings at the Chancery.
I have observed so often that it seems it must be common that people who eat a meal together are not sharing themselves or their time with each other. They are gathered around the table and are either looking at their phones, or if there is a television in the room, it has everyone’s attention. I have witnessed people who are sitting at the same table together texting rather than speaking to each other. We should allow Christ to touch our lives through our interactions with one another.
Imagine if that family or group of friends used prayer and the Word of God during their meal and time together. Imagine that moment and the different experience it will be for each person and the potential growth in their relationships with each other and their relationships with God — to simply invite God into the conversation and relationship.
As Catholics we are called to know God, to love God, and to serve God. It is who we are meant to be. Our Lord offers each of us eternal life through the forgiveness of our sins, but we must repent and ask for forgiveness. In the midst of whatever it is we are going through, He offers us eternal life and He calls us to know His voice and to follow Him. No matter what we are facing, the victory has already been won.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “I know my sheep.” He knows every single one of us. He knows each of us personally. It is why He suffered and died on the cross for us. How do you respond to the one who rescues you from the captivity of Sin and Death? How do you respond to the innocent one who willingly underwent torture and willingly suffered the most painful and humiliating public execution to save you from the control of Satan so that you can have eternal life in Heaven? Why do we ignore the voice of the one who truly loves us to listen to the lies of the enemy?
Take control of the voices you listen to. Let your smart phone, tablet, or computer help you hear the voice of your Good Shepherd! My homilies are available via podcast. Just search “Bishop Kihneman’s Homilies” in your podcast app. Many parishes are using the myParish app which has resources for prayer and Scripture. And of course, there is literally the most popular podcast in the world, The Bible in a Year podcast with Father Mike Schmitz. You can listen to this and other good Catholic podcasts in the car on the way to work, school, or home. How convenient! Turn off the distracting voices that lead you away from our Lord and take advantage of the good that can be found in technology! (More resources are listed at the bottom of this article.)
Make time in your daily life to read or listen to the Word of God, make time for prayer, make time for the One who you owe your life to. You have the joy of abundant life with Christ to gain and the chains of the enemy to lose.
Let us take to heart the words of John’s Gospel and hear the voice of our Good Shepherd say to us very personally, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:7-10).
Laudate is a free app with numerous resources for Scripture and prayer. You can sign up at bible.usccb.org/bible for an email with the daily readings. Podcasts to look for: USCCB Daily Readings Podcast, Bishop Kihneman’s Homilies, Bishop Barron’s Sunday Sermons, Sunday Homilies with Fr. Mike Schmitz, The Bible in a Year, The Catechism in a Year. iBreviary is also a free app and gives you the Liturgy of the Hours and daily readings. Canopy is an app that protects your family from inappropriate content without blocking everything.