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05/12/19 Fourth Sunday in Easter - Deacon Tony

Deacon Tony Conti

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 51

  • From today’s Gospel:My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow Me.”
  • We come here to hear the Shepherd’s voice… But the Lord doesn’t just speak to us at Church or through the Scriptures… He’s in constant conversation with us throughout our lives… Every day
  • But are we listening?
  • A few years ago, I heard the Shepherd’s voice very clearly in the most unexpected of places - While ordering cold cuts at the deli counter
  • I gave the girl my order, and within seconds she turned back and asked me again what I had ordered…
  • Now I know that I’m soft-spoken; so I repeated it in a louder voice…
  • She turned away, then turned back again and asked me to verify my order…
  • I became a little annoyed and repeated it slowly and in an even louder voice… Then it hit me
  • After I had spoken the third time, I realized that this girl was sincerely struggling to get the order right, and was just trying to do her best
  • I felt terrible, and I did my best to be as gracious and compassionate as I could for the remainder of the transaction…
  • As I was paying for my order, I placed a tip in the jar on the counter, and she said: “Oh, I don’t deserve that, I was too slow…”  I replied – “Oh no – You did a fine job – Have a good evening.”
  • At that moment at the deli counter – I clearly heard the Shepherd’s voice
    • The voice that reminded me not to judge
    • The voice that cautioned me not to condemn
    • The voice from the Gospel of Matthew (9:13) that says “Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'"
  • We all need to learn to discern the Shepherd’s voice amidst the noise of the world...
  • It’s only when we’re able to cease focusing on ourselves that we’re able to hear the Shepherd’s voice...
  • It’s only when we choose to let go of our need to be right that we can discern His message...   
  • The Shepherd’s voice has one overriding characteristic that differentiates it from all the other voices that vie for our attention…...
  • The Shepherd’s voice always calls us to compassion... and compassion calls us to understanding... and understanding calls us to love...
  • Someone once wrote: “Don’t conclude before you understand. (and) After you understand, don’t judge.”  Stanley Ann Dunham.
  • Hearing the Shepherd’s voice always starts by choosing to do the right thing… Not for fear of eternal punishment… But because it’s what we know in our hearts is right
  • It starts by correcting our errors as soon as we’re given the Grace to recognize them…
  • And it always starts with a heart of compassion
  • We live in a world where information is instantly available in abundance…
  • Advice and guidance are available everywhere… Modern media stands ready to solve all of our problems…
  • Yet how do we know who or what to pay attention to?
  • How can we discern the Shepherd’s vice amidst the noise of modern life?
  • Father Henri Nouwen wrote: “The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our hearts remain far from HimReal prayer comes from the heart… In our mind-oriented world, we will need a serious discipline to come to a prayer of the heart in which we can listen to the guidance of Him Who prays in us.”  (The Way of the Heart; Pgs. 71 & 89).
  • We’re called to learn to listen to our heartsBecause that’s where God dwells
  • In order to pray from the heart, we need to slow down from time to time and seek some silence
  • There are no detours or shortcuts on the road to transformation… It’s a long and often difficult journey…
  • We can study all of the wisdom of the past, but the greatest lessons in life are always personal
  • They must be lessons that we learn through our own trials and our own errors
  • We shouldn’t become discouraged by our failures… Instead we’re called to learn from them, for this is how we gain wisdom
  • God is always working in our lives… in our families, in our workplaceseven at the deli counter
  • He works in both our successes and perhaps most especially in our failures
  • Our job is not to be Willful, (Trying to control life); but rather, to be Willing, (to be open to the learning experiences that God sends us)…
  • We’re all battle-hardened by the world… We’ve all been battered, hurt and rejected in our lives…
  • None of this can really hurt us however – What can hurt us is when we allow our wounds to harden our hearts
  • When we’re no longer able feel compassion, when our hearts grow cold and calculating, when we grow bitterThis is when we’re in real danger
  • Because this is when it becomes most difficult for us to hear the Shepherd’s voice…
  • If we want true peace – We must learn the discipline of surrender to the will of God, every moment of every day, throughout our lives…
  • The way of surrender arises from the realization, (and for some the revelation), that we’re not Godand that we’re not called to be
  • Once we can come to grips with that eternal truth… Our entire perspective on life will change
  • And it’s most especially our perspective… How we see the world and how we see othersthat often needs to change
  • There’s a simple prayer that best sums up how we can learn to discern the Shepherd’s voice in any situation: “God please help me.  Heal my mind.  Wherever my thoughts have strayed from love – if I’ve been controlling, manipulative, greedy, ambitious for myselfwhatever it is, I’m willing to see this differently.”

A Return to Love – Marianne Williamson (pg 25).

  • And that’s the key: To make the decision to allow the voice of the Shepherd to help us to see each situation differentlyAs He sees them

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