Followers of The Way
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2015
JN 10:11-18

We routinely relinquish our freedom of movement, often without a second thought. When the maitre’d in a restaurant says: “Please follow me,” WE FOLLOW! When an usher in a theatre or a baseball game unceremoniously takes the ticket out of our hands, and after a quick glance down, turns and wordlessly leads us towards our seats, WE FOLLOW! When a parking lot attendant or traffic cop signals directions, even when those directions might carry us out of our way…still… WE FOLLOW! We even give up our freedom to “things” like orange barrels and traffic cones. True, there are times when we might question, resist, complain, or even turn around to avoid following directions; for the most part, we simply give up our free will and WE FOLLOW! Why? Because we recognize that someone is acting under the “color of authority” (orange, yellow, red…sometimes blue or brown) for the purpose of protecting us, preserving order, and keeping us safe. And we fear the consequences of disobedience. In countless ways, each and every day, we give up our free will, and, without hesitation or question, allowing ourselves to be “shepherded.” But when Jesus, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, shows us THE WAY…very often…WE RESIST!

How ironic that we would give up our free will to an orange barrel, fearing the consequences of disregarding an unfeeling, uncaring plastic object, but so often insist on going our own way…doing our own thing…when it comes to The Lord! It certainly isn’t a matter of not understanding by “whose authority” Jesus guides us. The Father sent the Son to show us THE WAY! If we took the time to consider the risks we take from straying from THE WAY, we would probably be far less inclined to stray. Crazy as it might seem, we tend to be more concerned about a traffic ticket than eternal damnation! And that is exactly why it is so important to take particular note of the fact that Jesus calls Himself The GOOD Shepherd.

Unlike the numerous other ways in which we are “shepherded” each and every day…The Lord’s style of guiding and leading and protecting does not prevent us from using our free will. We chart our own course. And rather than preventing us from deviating from THE WAY, The Good Shepherd patiently and lovingly travels with us as we move in the direction of our own choosing. Should our chosen course create a distance between us and where He yearns for us to be, He will not give away our table or sell our seat to someone else. Our special place at the heavenly banquet has been reserved for us from the beginning of time, and no one but us will fill it. But there are consequences for not following THE WAY that He teaches. By wandering off on our own, our journey becomes even more challenging and dangerous. We find that we travel in darkness, constantly encountering obstacles that impede our progress. When we detour from THE WAY OF THE LORD, our pilgrim journey is not filled with the Peace that The Risen Christ brings to us.

The Good News that comes to us this week is a reminder that it is the will of The Father that no one should be lost…even if the cost of our recovery is the Son’s death. Jesus willingly accepted death on The Cross so that we might all find The Way to eternal life. Through the power of The Holy Spirit, The Risen Christ can do for us what He could not do for many as He walked the earth. Like a gentle breeze guiding a boat into safe waters, the Spirit makes a course adjustment in our lives. The Holy Spirit is an irresistible force that draws us towards the Source of all life and love; a new song so beautiful that we aren’t even tempted to change the station. Somehow, without giving up our freedom of movement, The Spirit of the Lord draws our attention to THE WAY back to the flock…because that is the will of The Father!

As we continue to make our WAY through the Easter season, the image of Jesus as a Good Shepherd offers insights into His earthly mission while preparing us for the coming of The Holy Spirit. We are truly God’s children, the flock of The Lord…and we know THE WAY!