I recall over twenty years ago for the first time seeing a shepherd lead his sheep. I was in the Mid-East, where such events are common. This scene brought to life for me the pages of the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 10.
The shepherd “enters through the gate” (John 10:2). He then “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). He “walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4). This is what I saw. Our Lord was utilizing an image his listeners would have been all too familiar with — shepherd, sheep, the pen, the flock, the call of the shepherd, the sheep recognizing the shepherd’s voice.
The shepherd leads the sheep out. He does not lead from behind. No leader does. He stands visibly in front of the flock. This does not mean that he ignores what is happening at the rear. The true shepherd is ever observant. He also knows where he is going and what he is about. He loves his sheep and the sheep trust him. An expert in the business of raising sheep once assured me that what the Gospel said was very true. Sheep do indeed recognize the unique voice of their shepherd.
All of this applies to Jesus the Good Shepherd and to us as sheep of His flock. The voice of the Lord is unmistakable. May the Good Shepherd send us good and holy priests who will allow His voice to speak through them.