As we hear Jesus speaking about the image of a shepherd, He talks about recognizing the voice. shepherds were present at the birth of every sheep in the flock, so that they could be imprinted with the shepherd's voice. Since it was difficult to distinguish one sheep from the other, the shepherd relied on the sheep to come to him when he began calling them. This was especially useful when sheep from multiple flocks were kept in common sheepfolds overnight. The shepherds would lie down across the opening to the sheepfold (hence the statement that "I am the gate") and keep watch overnight so that none would wander out, nor would any wild animals be able to attack. In the morning, the shepherds would call their sheep and, recognizing the voice of their own shepherd, only their sheep would respond. The imprinting was remarkable.
Humans are similar. It is amazing to watch an infant being held by someone who hears the voice of her/his mother. Immediately they respond, turning to the sound of the familiar voice. Mothers, too, are usually able to recognize the cry of their own baby, even when multiple babies are present. Unfortunately, this imprinting in humans is qualified by our free will. Sheep automatically respond to the voice of their shepherd. We have "selective" hearing, sometimes choosing to ignore the voice of our parent, teacher, trusted adult. That is a consequence of free will. We can ignore the voice of the shepherd, or choose to follow the voice of another. And the devil uses very attractive voices, ones from which sheep would flee. Just think back to when you were young. how many "friends" coaxed you to do things that were not right? Their voice sounded extremely logical, attractive and made it seem fun! But deep inside, you were ignoring that other voice, the one that had been there from the beginning, trying to help you do the right thing. Sometimes that "voice of conscience" would win, sometimes the "other" voice.
As adults it is not much different. Competing voices try to influence us. They all change, adapting to the circumstances. Only one voice remains constant - the voice of the Shepherd. It may sometimes be very low, very quiet. We may have to readjust our listening skills so that we hear it better. But it is still there, is always there. The voice of the Shepherd is the one we can always trust. He may not speak the words we want to hear, may not lead us where we think we should go. But one thing we are guaranteed - the Shepherd will never lead us astray. Following the voice of the Shepherd leads us to the best place, the place that is out of this world!