In the readings for this Sunday, Nov. 26, we celebrate our King, Jesus, as a shepherd. We’re reminded that, although God could do anything, he chose to become lowly for our sake.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, Nov. 26, tell us that on the day we celebrate most particularly the Kingship of Jesus, we focus on him as being a shepherd—one of the dirtiest, least desirable jobs of the ancient world. This is our King—our God—the one who loves us so much that he uses his authority to become the lowest of the low in order to save us. And our salvation, we’re told, is dependent on our willingness to do the same.
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
The first reading, Ezekiel speaks for God who shows himself as a shepherd who will bring justice, rest, nourishment, healing, and salvation to those who were lost on cloudy and dark days. God makes a distinction between the sheep who need these things and those who have already had all of them, but didn’t share with the needy ones. The well-fed sheep will be separated from the poor ones, and be considered goats instead. They will not be under God’s protection. God calls that, “shepherding rightly.” God calls that justice.
The second reading illustrates how God’s perfect authority chooses vulnerability. God is the master of all, but in Jesus, allows himself to be subject to his creation. It’s through that humble giving that Jesus conquers all of God’s enemies—death being the last of them. By dying and rising, Jesus conquered death. If we live as people of hope, his Resurrection (and ours) makes death ultimately powerless.
In the Gospel, Jesus shares with us the recipe for salvation. We’re called to become like the shepherd in the first reading; to bring healing and justice to those who were unable to get it for themselves. Jesus tells us clearly that when we perform a corporal work of mercy for any human being, it’s credited as having done it directly to him. On the other hand, when we choose not to offer that mercy to any human being, God considers it ignoring Jesus right in front of our faces. We’re members of his flock only when we reach out to the poor and vulnerable. When we ignore suffering, we make ourselves goats; unclean, and unfit for heaven.
If today we celebrate Jesus’ kingship, and God’s perfect authority over creation, why do you think the readings focus on God as a shepherd? Do you believe Jesus when he says that ignoring any suffering person is ignoring him? If so, how well do you live the corporal works of mercy? Are there any ways that you need to become more responsive?
What do you think it would be like to be a shepherd? What do you think it would be like to be a king or queen?
How do you feel about being called a sheep? What is different between our sheep-ness as Christians from the cultural understanding of being sheep who are mindless followers?
Jesus’ way to teach us how to be people who use authority correctly was to make himself subject to the things that he created–even God’s last enemy–death. What can we, as authority figures for our children and in our communities, apply from his example? What does being a good leader have to do with being a good shepherd?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
How can your family live the Corporal Works of Mercy this week?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”