St Augustine asks what is the voice of the shepherd, and answers with Luke 24:47: ‘and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’: that is the voice of the Shepherd. Recognise it and follow it if you are a sheep. St Cyril of Alexandria sees this willingness of obey and to follow as the distinguishing mark of Christ’s sheep, just as disobedience is the mark of those who are not his. We take, he says, the word ‘to hear’ as also meaning ‘to obey’. God knows us all, but to hear and obey him is to become part of his family in a special way. We are all united to Christ is a mystical way because of the Incarnation. Yet those who do not preserve the likeness of his holiness are alienated from him. By God-given Grace believers follow in the footsteps of Christ. No longer subject to the shadow of the law, they obey Christ and, guided by his words, rise through Grace to his own dignity – for they are called ‘children of God’ (Matthew 5:9).
St Cyril goes on to say that the reward for following Christ is eternal life and exemption from the torments the judge inflicts upon transgressors. Christ is life, and he gives life eternal. He does not receive life from anyone, but supplies it because he is life. We are also to understand here a reference to our participation in his life through the most holy Eucharist – he who east my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (John 6:54).
The faithful have Christ’s help, and the devil cannot snatch them from his grasp; Christ has promised it, and so it is. Even though there will be many deceivers, they cannot separate the sheep from the Good Shepherd.
St Augustine tells us that the Son, born from the everlasting Father, God from God, does not have equality with the Father by growth, but by birth. The Father is not God from the Son, the Son is begotten by the Father, before all worlds, to be co-eternal with him. The power of the Son is the power of the Father, and that power is greater than anything, and so no one can take the sheep from Jesus. Thus, when God feeds us, it is Father, Son and Holy Ghost who do so. In his divinity, Christ is equal to the Father; by his incarnation he is subject to him.
St Cyril reminds us that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in essence but. not in persons.