John 10: 27 - 30
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father's hand.
The Father and I are one.
The relationship of sheep and shepherd in Jesus’ time was close and familiar. The sheep depended upon the shepherd for food and safety. They heard the shepherd’s voice everyday and their experience told them that the voice could be trusted. New sheep had to learn to hear the shepherd’s voice and to recognize that it was trustworthy.
Learning to hear the voice of Jesus is part of the journey of discipleship. The shepherd “spoke” to the sheep in his actions as well as in words. If he opened the gate and walked ahead the sheep followed. If he called they came.
Jesus does the same for us. Sometimes there are words which seem to come from nowhere, deep within us, often simple but always profound in their effect. Jesus’ words are accompanied by peace, which signals that they can be trusted. Sometimes there are circumstances, changes, interventions in our lives which can only be understood as the actions of one who cares for and loves us in every detail of our existence. Jesus knows us, far more deeply and comprehensively than we know ourselves.
A new sheep learns from both other sheep and its own experience how to hear the voice of the shepherd and how to follow it. In the same way the experience of other disciples, including the saints, helps us to hear the voice of Jesus. So does perseverance and patience in prayer.
There can be a lot of static in the space within, often generated by the pressures of each day, which can interfere with our reception of his voice. Every follower of Jesus, no matter how long they have known him, must constantly tune and re-tune his or her soul to the sound of his voice.