The sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Who are these sheep? They are not the four-footed wooly kind, but those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ as disciples, and hear and obey His word. Only the Shepherd Himself knows who they really are. We judge by what we observe from the outside - the shape, the conversation, the racial characteristics, the nationality, the politics, the religion - whereas the Lord sees and judges the heart. On one occasion when the Pharisees were sneering at His teaching Jesus said to them: "You are they who declare yourselves just in the sight of men, but God knows your heart; for that which is exalted in the sight of men is an abomination before God" (Luke 16: 15).
Then who are the disciples of the Lord? A disciple is one who follows a teacher, hearing his voice and observing his life, so as to become like him. "No disciple is above his teacher," said Jesus, "but when perfected, everyone will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).
True disciples of Jesus Christ treasure His every word, ponder every aspect of His life as revealed in the Gospels, and contemplate His Holy Face, so as to be able to say with St. Paul, "It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). Is there anything else worth doing? A half-hearted disciple is no disciple.
How must the disciples behave towards one another? We find this in a well-known passage from the first epistle of St. John: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this has the love of God been shown in our case, that God has sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we may live through him. In this is the love, not that we have loved God, but that he has first loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:7-11).
The first duty of the disciple is to love Christ, the Head, and then the other members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. In doing so we seek the common good rather than our own. We try to imitate the spirit of the first believers: "Now the multitude of the believers were of one heart and one soulů" (Acts 4:32).
Without sacrifice true Christian Community cannot exist. Even little things can be a stumbling block. We contrive to have things our way. We are upset if something is asked of us that goes against the grain. We are still 'rugged individualists' insisting on our rights. When Jesus washed the feet of His Apostles He said: "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do" (John 13:12-15).
If you do not take your discipleship seriously, you will be, by default, a disciple of this world. You will seek your own advantage as the worldly do; you will demand your rights as the worldly demand their rights; you will be angry as the world is angry; you will take revenge as it takes revenge; you will take pleasure in sin as it takes pleasure in sin; you will die as it dies.
"Do not love the world, or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; which is not from the Father, but from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
We have the example of the saints, like St. Monica. Monica was betrothed by her parents to Patricius, a non-Christian who had a violent temper. But Monica was so patient and self-sacrificing that he never abused her, and was finally won over by her prayers, dying a holy death as a Christian. Monica was a peacemaker among the women of her neighborhood, and counseled them to have the same patience and obedience towards their husbands. Her years of prayers and tears for the conversion of her son, Augustine, are a well-known story. About her death, St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: "We did not consider it fitting to memorialize her death with lamentations and groans, because these for the most part express grief over the wretchedness of those that die, or over their apparently total extinction. However, she neither died in misery nor ceased in reality to exist. Of this we were assured without any doubt by the purity of her life and the sincerity of her faith unfeigned (1 Tm.1:5)" (Confessions, Bk.9,Ch.12).
"If, therefore, there is any comfort in Christ, any encouragement from charity, any fellowship in the Spirit, any feelings of mercy, fill up my joy by thinking alike, having the same charity, with one soul and one mind. Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of vainglory, but in humility let each one regard the others as his superiors, each one looking not to his own interests but to those of others. Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross" (Phil.2:1-8).
Good Shepherd of the sheep, hear the voice of those who call You Lord and Master!