Every leader is a follower. Who or whatever a leader follows determines where he or she directs followers.
What we follow is a vision of what we think will bring us success, happiness, fulfillment, etc. The one who has our ear is the one we listen to and allow to influence and direct us. Therefore, it is important for each of us to consider who or what we turn to for direction and happiness as we live our lives.
We may think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but the fact is that we all follow a person, a philosophy or a vision. None of us are self-sufficient or completely sure where we are going or what we can accomplish on our own.
Jesus asked his disciples who others thought he was. Then He asked them who they thought he was. Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Mt 16:15) Jesus asked this question because he wanted to know if they were following him or if they thought he was someone else.
We must be sure of who is leading us so that, knowing their true identity, we can determine whether we are being led where we want to go. Otherwise, we might be following someone or a cause to our detriment. This is also true of Christians who may think they are following Jesus, but are following someone’s version of Jesus and not who he really is. These are the people to whom Jesus said, “I tell you, I don’t know where you come from. Away from me, malefactors! (Mk 13:27)
As we enter the fourth week of Easter, we hear Jesus say in His Discourse on the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-39): “My sheep hear my voice” (v 27). To hear the voice of Jesus, we must listen to Him, not partially but fully.
Jesus tells us where we are in order to lead us where he knows we need to be. This is why the voice of Jesus is not always pleasant to hear as he calls us to reform our lives, to change our selves for the better. We don’t like to face the fact that we are not what God created for us.
From the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ theme was: “Reform your lives!” The Kingdom of Heaven is near. (Mt 4:17) So to hear the voice of Jesus means to hear him calling you and me to repent of our sin and be reconciled to him and his Church. If we refuse to repent or think we have no sin, we don’t hear Jesus’ voice, or we hear it but pay no heed.
Those who hear and listen to the voice of Jesus are the true members of his Church. Within His Church, He knows each member personally. He reveals: “I know them, and they follow me. (v 17) Jesus has their ear. For this, He promises them eternal life with His Father in union with Him and the Holy Spirit. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” (v 28)
God says to those who listen to Jesus: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I called you by your name: you are mine. (Isa 43:1) No one but Jesus can give this assurance to human beings. But to have that assurance, we must let His voice guide us in our daily lives.
I shared earlier in these columns that we don’t come into the world as good listeners. We can make our needs known, but we are not automatic listeners. Listening is an art that can be learned.
Someone noted that there are three types of listening: We listen to put holes in what we hear. We listen because we can’t put a word on the edge. We listen to learn and understand.
Listening to learn requires respect for the speaker, faith in them, putting yourself in their shoes, asking good questions to understand what was said, and giving good feedback on what was heard. This is especially true when coming to learn from Jesus. He continually speaks to the world and to each person through His Church under the direction of Peter preaching the divine word that tells us what is real, true, good and beautiful about God and ourselves and His creation.
Thus, we learn what we must do to be real, true, good and beautiful people. This teaching is contained in the Apostolic Tradition that the Church is bound to transmit until the return of Jesus. We must have faith in the presence of Jesus in his Church where he meets us in each of his Sacraments and especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
We need to put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes as he sacrifices himself to save us from our sins. We need to ask good questions to be properly evangelized and catechized. We need to give good feedback about what we hear him say to us personally and as members of his church.
When we listen to Jesus, he assures us that “no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them from the hand of the Father. (v 29) No one can deprive us of God’s love except ourselves.
Saint Thomas Aquinas once said that not everything that can be taken from us can make us happy. Everything we have can be taken away from us, but no one can deprive us of God’s grace. Therefore, only God can make us happy. That’s one of the reasons we should listen to Him.
Jesus reveals that when we hear and listen to his voice, we also hear and listen to his Father’s voice. He tells us that “The Father and I are one”. (v 30) To reinforce the impact of this unity on believers, Jesus revealed: “I solemnly assure you that the man who hears my word and has faith in him who sent me has eternal life. He is not condemned, but he has passed from death to life. (Jn 5:24)
The message here is that when we make the voice of Jesus our guiding light, we already experience salvation and taste eternal life while we are still here on earth. It was this knowledge that motivated Peter and all the apostles, including Paul, to face all manner of persecution and to lay down their lives to promote the name of Jesus.
The name Jesus means “Savior” and therefore, “every knee should bend in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should proclaim to the glory of God the Father, Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Phil 2:10-11)
Listen to Jesus so that you know that He is closer to you than you are to yourself by accompanying you as a member of His Church each day of your life leading you to Heaven.