Iona AbbeyHomily preached in the Michael Chapel at the abbey on the Island of Iona fourth Sunday in Easter time (year A)

As ordained priest, I am also called to be a shepard. So far, I have had little, or lets just admit it; absolutely no success in the attempt of getting in touch with the sheeps here at Iona. It might have happened that I’ve stopped at a fence looking at some really charming lambs, and it might also have happend that they have come slowly towards me. But as soon as I open my mouth to call on them, they run away seemingly with fear or even anxiety in their eyes. (So much for the good shepard!)

No, my voice do no good to them. There’s only one voice they search, especially when they’re afraid, and that is their mother’s voice. You can see them crossing a whole field to get in safety with their caring mom, constantly bleating on their way, while the mother on her side call them back. They listen to each other, and they belong to each other, and find peace and calm when they are close to one another.

Just as the sheep (even though we might not like to be compared with sheeps), we too are made for belonging. When we’re children, we belong to our parents, as parents in their way belongs to their children. Husbond and wife belong to each other, and deep friendship has some of that same quality of belonging to each other. All this mirrors that deep divine relation and the ultimate reason for our existence: The fact that we belong to God.

We could have stopped there, but there is more. God, the creator of everything, feel so committed to his creation, and especially the part of it which is made in his image, that he joins us, in flesh and among us, so that we may hear his voice in the most intimate way. Christ comes to us as a brother, a friend, a spouce, a shepard… All these images of the Son of God are there to show us to whom we belong. But it also shows us the depth of the commitment God has taken on. God belongs to us, to each of us, not out of necessity, but out of love.

God sends us his Son, who is, as we heard in the Gospel reading, both the gateway and the shepard. He is in other words both that familiar voice calling, and the accesspoint through whom we reunites with our Father.

So why is everything so complicated? Can’t we just follow this voice? Alas, It is not that easy. Peter, the one who is given the responsibilty as shepard, fails dramatically when trying to fulfill his promise of staying faithful to the Lord. The betrayal is a fact before he even notice. Why? Because he has not yet learned to listen. And this faculty is not something that we can grab ourselves, it is given us through the Spirit, for us to cooperate with. To listen then, is both a gift and an exercise. The way to holiness goes through listening. The way of the preacher goes through listening. The way of love goes through listening. We need to tune in to God’s voice calling.

There is a story I would like to tell you. It’s about an Indian, of the native population in the United States, who once were visiting one of the big, upcoming city early in the beginning of the last century. He walked the streets with a white man, with noisy cars and shouting people all around. Suddenly the indian stopped, and said: «Oh, do you hear the grasshopper?» The white man shaked his head, claiming that it is impossible to hear anything in such noise. But the Indian insisted, and started to follow the inaudible sound. They entered a quad, and there, behind some wooden barrels, they saw and heard the little grasshopper singing.

There is a song to be heard. By the way, I love the way we say «The sound of Iona». There is truly a sound raising from this Island. And there is truly a voice  raising from within ourselves. Our Lord is calling us. Let us keep on encouraging one another to listen to his voice. Just like Elijah heared the Lord, neither in the storm nor in an earth quake, but in a light murmuring sound, so shall we be quiet to the silent, unexpected voice of God in our own hearts.