Gospel Message & Recording
In the context of the Gospel that is ascribed for today’s reading, Jesus is challenged by the Jewish people, “How long do you keep us in doubt? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24) Jesus answered them saying, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness to me. But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27) Here, Jesus clearly teaches that if we “belong” to Him, we will “hear” his voice and “follow” him. He does so by making an analogy to the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. The word shepherd basically means “the one who herds the sheep.” Sheep are animals that basically follow. (They are not necessarily intelligent animals.) This does not mean they are stupid. Rather, they are very innocent and obedient to their shepherd. This is seen in the way that the shepherd signals with his voice to the sheep in which direction to move when being herded from place to place. The shepherd's voice is distinct to his sheep. It cannot be duplicated or mimicked. In other words, if another shepherd attempts to signal sheep that do not belong to him, they will not respond well. Similarly, we as Orthodox Christians are the “sheep” that should hear the voice of our shepherd Jesus Christ. Can you hear the voice of Christ? In fact, are you even listening? Many of the problems and trials that we face in our lives could be avoided if we listen to the voice of our shepherd, Jesus. So, what does it mean to “hear the voice of Christ?”
First and foremost, many of the Saints of the Holy Church have heard the actual voice of Christ, in visions and revelations. This might not be something we ever experience in our lives because we are not holy enough. To hear the actual voice of Christ is rare. Therefore it should not be an immediate expectation for any Orthodox Christian. However, each Christian (from my experience) has the ability to hear the voice of Christ in the following ways: 1) a peaceful feeling within the heart of a particular situation or circumstance 2) using our reasonable and intellectual capabilities to make decision in life 3) seeking an Orthodox Priest for counsel and confession 4) realizing that God puts barriers in our life for a reason.
- We have all heard of the “gut” feeling. Even though the gut feeling cannot be proven, it is tied to our natural instincts. For a Christian, when we follow the Ten Commandments, pray and fast on a regular bases, this instills in us an instinctive feeling on what is right and wrong. In other words, our “spiritual antennas” are up and running well. We know when something is not good for our spiritual life. Therefore, the voice of Christ is a sort of non-audible voice that can be felt in our hearts.
- Sometimes in life, there are circumstances and situations where we are called to make decisions. In such cases, we might be seeking for God voice, a sort of supernatural occurrence; when in fact, God is saying: use your brain! In Hebrew (Jewish tradition) the mind and the heart are the same. They operate as one. So, it’s not “unspiritual” to say that we can use our mind to figure out the answers to some of life’s problems. Certain money issues, relationship decisions, medical treatments are determinations we can make with the intelligence that God has gifted us with.
- Seeking Orthodox counsel is vitally important in hearing the voice of God. God works through the ordained clergy of the Orthodox Church to speak to his people. Asking for spiritual guidance and going to a regular confession from a Priest is a sign of spiritual maturity. The spiritual mature make better decisions than the immature. It is a spiritual fact that those who regularly go to confession have a stronger and more genuine relationship with Christ than those who don’t.
- There are times when we attempt to do something—it simply does not work out. For example, we might want to buy a home or car, but the circumstance, for whatever reason, would not allow us to purchase it. In such situations, realize that God might be deterring us from buying such things so that we could avoid a certain life problem. I have learned from personal experience that what God wills to take place in our lives will happen with grace and ease. Anything that is “forced” or “manipulated to work” is not God’s will. If you find yourself “forcing a situation to work” or “trying to make something happen,” know that you might be fighting against the will of God.
Are you Christ’s sheep? If so, open your ears, eyes, mind and heart and hear his voice.
Before discussing, let everyone provide their opinion or thoughts on what they think when they hear the term “the voice of God.”
Discuss the following ways to hear the voice of God. As you go through each way, include your life experience, if any.
- a peaceful feeling within the heart of a particular situation or circumstance
- using our reasonable and intellectual capabilities to make a decision in life
- seeking an Orthodox Priest for counsel and confession
- realizing that God puts barriers in our life for a reason
3. After discussing, have everyone define something new they learned. Also, if time permits, have each person write down an action item they want to prayerfully implement in their life in regard to hearing the voice of God.