The cross is the symbol of Christianity today. But in the early days of the Church, Christ was depicted as the Good Shepherd. It was a favorite image of the first Christians. On this "Good Shepherd Sunday," Jesus doesn't refer to himself as the Good Shepherd but rather speaks of us as the sheep who hear his voice. When I think of loved ones who have died, I can recall not only what they looked like but what they sounded like. Their voice was unique.
We hear the voice of Jesus in such a way that he becomes personal to us. What many people don't get about us Christians is that our faith is based on a person, on a relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith is not about laws, commandments or religious practices (as important as these are). Faith is about friendship with Christ.
Bishop Gries would tell the young people about to be confirmed: "My best friend is Jesus Christ." Can we say the same? Can we say even that Jesus is our friend? Or is our faith simply a set of theological beliefs that we adhere to? Jesus tells us that no one can take us out of his hands or out of his Father's hands. We hold hands only with those we know personally. To be a Catholic is not just to show up for Mass on the weekend or to engage in pious devotions, as good and important as these are. Faith is knowing that we are safe in the loving hands of God.