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DIVINE ONENESS

Read­ing Time: 8 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Acts 13:14.43–52; Rev 7:9.14–17; John 10:27–30)

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they fol­low me. I give them etern­al life, and they will nev­er per­ish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Fath­er has giv­en me is great­er than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father­’s hand. The Fath­er and I are one” (John 10:27–30).

Introduction

The Gos­pel of this Sunday invites us to reflect on the fol­low­ing: sheep, belong­ing, listen­ing, know­ing, fol­low­ing, giv­ing, etern­al life, get­ting lost, steal­ing, and being one with the Fath­er. Sheep is the most fre­quently men­tioned anim­al in the Bible. The sheep that belong to Jesus’ flock are those he has chosen, and who believe. People do not believe because they are not part of the flock of God. This is why God gives people the oppor­tun­ity to be part of his flock so that they can believe and not get lost. Those who believe are made one. They are one with God. hence, divine oneness.

The tenth chapter of the Gos­pel accord­ing to John is about the role of the shep­herd. While shep­herds of the flock enter through the door to take of their sheep, thieves, that is, those who do not care about the sheep enter through the win­dow to steal the flock. Accord­ing to Jesus, the sheep are trained to the extent they recog­nize their own­er even from the voice. While they run towards their own­ers, they run away from strangers who do not care about them (cf. John 10:1–6). Jesus boldly presents him­self as the gate of the sheep­fold and also the good shep­herd. Who­ever enters through him be safe and will equally have etern­al life. As a good and exem­plary shep­herd, Jesus lays down his life for his sheep (cf. John 10−7−18). There­fore, the sheep that belong to him, hears his voice and listens to him, and even obeys and puts into prac­tice what he says. Today, how are the sheep react­ing to the words and teach­ings of Jesus?

The listening sheep

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they fol­low me” (John 10:27). “Suc­cess and fail­ure, life and death, all depend on listen­ing or not listen­ing. Spir­itu­al­ity begins with listen­ing. The verb to listen means to give ear (hear); to pay atten­tion; per­ceive with the ear; to hear with thought­ful atten­tion; con­sider ser­i­ously (heed to). Listen­ing there­fore, is the act of pay­ing atten­tion and hear­ing with the inten­tion of doing that, which is heard.”[1] People do not listen because it is either they are dis­trac­ted, pre­sump­tu­ous or they do not listen do to pre­ju­dice and hatred.

The primary char­ac­ter­ist­ic of being God’s flock is listen­ing to God. Listen­ing is an atti­tude of sub­mis­sion and obed­i­ence. When the com­mand­ment invites chil­dren to obey their par­ents, what it implies is that they must obey them. Without listen­ing to the instruc­tions of their par­ents, how can chil­dren obey? Listen­ing is not just being phys­ic­ally quiet. It also involves accept­ing, obey­ing and put­ting into prac­tice what one has been told. Life and death begin with listen­ing or not listen­ing. If the Israel­ites want to live, then, they must listen to the laws of God and fol­low them strictly (cf. Deut 6:4). To do so is to have life, and the refus­al to do so, implies death. It is up to them to make their choice. There­fore, the sheep that belongs to God listen to God and obey the voice of God as con­tained in the Gos­pel. Among oth­er things, the sheep is a sym­bol of obed­i­ence and stu­pid­ity. You must make your choice!

The following sheep

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they fol­low me” (John 10:27). The second qual­ity of the sheep that belong to Jesus is that they fol­low him after listen­ing to him. To express this ‘fol­low­ing’, the Greek texts uses the verb ako­loutheō. Ako­loutheō is a verb of dis­ciple­ship (cf. Luke 5:27). “Ordin­ar­ily, ako­loutheō could mean come after in ref­er­ence to an indi­vidu­al fol­low­ing Jesus (cf. Mark 10:52), or go along with, accom­pany in ref­er­ence to the crowd accom­pa­ny­ing Jesus (cf. Matt 21:9). In the Gos­pel con­text, ako­loutheō is not just an ordin­ary fol­low­ing or accom­pa­ny­ing. It is dis­ciple­ship. It is self-com­mit­ment and self-abneg­a­tion. Hence, it means to fol­low, go after. It is in this sense that Jesus used it and con­tin­ues to use it in call­ing the dis­ciples both then and now.”[2] It is equally in this sense that Jesus con­cludes his sheep hear his voice and they fol­low him. They fol­low him because he knows them and they too know him. Fol­low­ing someone you do not know means get­ting lost. We should neither fol­low every voice we hear nor fol­low­ing any­body we see.

Listening and eternal life

I give them etern­al life…” (John 10:28a). The sheep that belongs to God listens to God, knows God and fol­lows God, giv­ing and sur­ren­der­ing his or life to God. This is etern­al life. Such sheep will nev­er be lost nor stolen by any­one. If Jesus and the Fath­er are one, them, it implies that those who believe in God, that is, the sheep that belong to God, should as well be one. Thus, Jesus’ one­ness with the Fath­er is the found­a­tion for the unity and uni­fic­a­tion of those who believe in God. The only way to have etern­al life is to hear the voice of Jesus and fol­low it. The refus­al to do so means get­ting lost. When one of the Jew­ish rulers approached Jesus and asked him what he must do to have etern­al life, Jesus asked him to go, sell his pos­ses­sions, dis­trib­ute the money to the poor, then, come back and fol­low him. The Gos­pel reports that on hear­ing these words, he became sad and walked away because he was very rich (cf. Luke 18:18–23 // Mark 10:17–22). By becom­ing sad and walk­ing away, the ruler showed he was not among the sheep of Jesus. Instead of fol­low­ing Jesus, he pre­ferred to fol­low his own way. The sheep that belong to Jesus do not behave this way.

Jesus’ sheep

…they will nev­er per­ish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). From the way Jesus speaks, we learn there are two kinds of sheep: those that belong to him and those that do not belong to him. Accord­ing to Jesus, the sheep that belong to him are dis­tin­guished by two things. First, they will nev­er be lost. And secondly, they can nev­er be stolen. This is pos­sible because he has giv­en them etern­al life and the Fath­er is great­er than all. Again, Jesus giv­ing them etern­al life is because they hear his voice and they fol­low him. These sheep will nev­er be lost. They will nev­er per­ish. And they will nev­er be stolen by any­one. This is an assur­ance giv­en by Jesus. These sheep have Jesus and his Fath­er as guards. With Jesus and the Fath­er, these sheep are pro­tec­ted and well secured. And just as Jesus and the Fath­er are one, these sheep should also be one because unity is strength.

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