“…the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice” (Jn 10:4). This verse is one of the keys to growing in the spiritual life and becoming a disciple of Jesus. Amidst all the voices, distractions, and temptations clamoring for our attention, we want to develop an ear to hear and a mind to discern his voice. There are so many directions we can take and opportunities we can be enticed by, many that are detrimental, but more challenging, those that are good in and of themselves.
Jesus came to us so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). To live life to the fullest, to actualize our potential, we need to be able to discern the distinction between apparent goods and the true Good. An apparent good is appealing, attractive, and desirable, though once experienced, we conclude that it was indeed not good for us at all. We can see this in the promotion of processed foods, with additives and an excess incentive of enticing the taste buds with salts and sugars. The experience of eating many of these products is that they taste good going down, especially if eaten quickly and not savored, such that we often eat them in excess. They not only have little, if any nutritional value, if this is the main source of our nutrition, in short order we will feel the ill affects of eating in this way.
When I sit down to eat pizza, there are two clear voices. One voice encourages an eating of the whole pie in one setting, while another urges a balanced two slice approach. I will let you decide which is the voice of the Shepherd 😉 The same is true regarding how we spend our time and treasure. We all have the same amount of time in the day. In what ways do we use our time, who is it that we are listening to regarding how we use the time we have been given? Do we listen to the Father of Lies or the Good Shepherd?
A good practice for developing an ear to hear and discern the voice of the Good Shepherd is to resist making decisions impulsively. When a decision comes to mind let us make time to pray with Jesus and seek his guidance, and resist making an impulsive decision, regarding food, purchases, jobs, relationships, and in all areas of our lives. We can ask ourselves each time, is what I am about to decide helping me to become a better disciple, or as the author and speaker, Matthew Kelly, says, is this helping me to be the best version of myself?
With time and experiences of the results of our decisions we will come to better hear more clearly the voice of Jesus. For the process of discernment, it is also a good practice to have a core group of people we can talk over decisions with to get their perspective, to help keep us accountable, and help us to stay on the path. In this way, we can also learn to hear the words of Jesus through others.
May we have ears to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice today, and the humility to follow his will that we may live our life more abundantly!