Today, as the Gospel of the Good Shepherd is proclaimed, Jesus reminds the Church that the voice we need to hear, above all the other voices in society – is the voice of the “Good Shepherd”. Jesus tells us today: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down My life for My sheep.”  The “Good Shepherd” was a favorite theme of the early Church. Primitive Christian art depicted Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”. In Palestine, shepherds guided their sheep to pastures and led them to food and water. They watched over their sheep and protected them from danger both day and night. The danger of getting lost; falling into a pit; getting entangled in thorns and brambles; or being attacked by wild animals. The shepherds paid special attention to the small, weak sheep. At night, several flocks of sheep were corralled into the same enclosure, and the shepherds would literally become the gate to protect the sheep inside. In the morning, each shepherd would call his sheep, and recognizing that distinct whistle or tone of voice, the sheep would begin to follow him. The life of the shepherd was one of dedication. The sheep became his family, and he called each one by name. The shepherd was with his flock 365 days a year and often 24 hours a day. Against that background of the vocation of a shepherd, we are able to appreciate what Jesus had in mind when He said: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.” Jesus was persecuted because the Jewish leaders were jealous of Him. They accused Him of being a blasphemer. His teaching didn’t fit in with their preconceived notions of what the Messiah should be. The Romans gladly crucified Him, because he not only represented a threat to the power Jewish authorities, but also to the Roman authorities as well.  After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, persecution of the early Church became the law of the Roman Empire. Christianity was growing and Christians were “different.” Their faith in Jesus Christ was so radical and so fundamental that they were willing to die if necessary. That same kind of Faith enabled the Apostles to put their lives on the line for the proclamation of their Faith. The First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles begins in a courtroom where Peter and the others have been arrested for proclaiming Faith in Jesus Christ. Peter was having his first encounter with opposition to his message. Peter and John were arrested because their message of Jesus’ Resurrection annoyed the religious officials and because they had cured a lame man As head of the Church and leader of the Apostles, Peter responded to the court by proclaiming the major teachings of the Apostolic Church, and he concluded his speech with the dramatic words: “There is salvation in no one else!” Because the Roman authorities feared the followers of the New Christian Way, the officials let Peter and John go free – but with a warning never to preach again – but they refused to listen because Christianity has been, and always must be at odds with “BUSINESS AS USUAL”. Today, Christianity is still a threat to society. People hate the Church because She teaches the truth. Most people are comfortable with the status quo, with the established ways of doing things. People don’t want to be threatened by having to change how they think or how they act and this includes Christians themselves.  In our Second reading today, St. John tells us: “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Today’s Gospel of the “Good Shepherd” challenges complacency! What are we to do?” is the question Jesus raised in the minds and hearts of those who first heard the Good News of the Gospel. It is also the question we must ask ourselves today – especially in the light of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the Haqqani Network, Hezbollah, and all the other hate-filled fanatics who hate, plot, murder, and destroy in the name of religion.  The answer is simple. We must accept and embrace with all our hearts and souls, Jesus Christ as the one, and only, source of our salvation. Jesus, and no other, can give us what we want, what we need, what we must have to be complete and satisfied. There is no other source or person who can take His place. There is no other way to perfect happiness other than through Jesus Christ our Shepherd. The “Good Shepherd” is the only answer to our longings for peace and salvation. In the midst of the confusion of our world, the voice of the “Good Shepherd” is the voice we need to hear. Today’s readings call us to listen to that voice who invites us to follow where He leads us. The readings call us to open our minds and hearts to the truth which only His voice can teach and to have the strength to stand up for, defend, and live out those teachings. May we always hear His voice and follow it!