Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter and Good Shepherd Sunday. We remember that Jesus takes care of us when we are helpless and gives us a friendly voice to follow when we’re scared. It’s a good week to think about who Jesus has given to us to be shepherds in our daily lives, and who we have been asked to shepherd.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
Acts 2:14A, 36-41
Those who accepted his message were baptized.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
1 Peter 2:20b-25
For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Did you ever see the show “Dirty Jobs”? Well, the job of shepherd in Jesus’ time would sure have made it onto that show. In Jesus’ time, being a shepherd meant having a pretty crummy job. They had to hang out with stinky animals (cute though they may be), fight off dangerous animals, make sure that none of the sheep ran off, and sleep outside in all kinds of weather. Sheep were kept in an enclosure, but the shepherd often slept in the doorway–he was the gate. This way, he was right there with the sheep, knowing what they were up to, and keeping predators away. When Jesus took the job of being our shepherd, he was accepting complete responsibility for us, and taking a job that was very much beneath the dignity of a king.
In the first reading, Peter tells the Jewish people that Jesus’ promise of redemption was available to everyone and invited them to become part of Jesus’ flock. The second reading describes how Jesus suffered for what was right, and did it without complaining. He’s our shepherd, and the “guardian of our souls”.
In the Gospel, Jesus talks about how his sheep hear and recognize his voice, and follow him. The word “catechesis” has its root in a word that means “echo.” When we learn about Jesus, we learn how to recognize Jesus’ voice, how to tell the difference between his voice and the voices of those who would lead us astray, and how to echo Jesus’ voice forward to others. As followers of Jesus, we are his echo in the world, helping others to hear and recognize him, too.
Do you think you’d like to be shepherd if you lived in Jesus’ time? If so, what would you like about it? What wouldn’t you like about it?
Jesus said that, as a shepherd, he has come to give us abundant life, whereas false shepherd want to slaughter and destroy the flock. How good are you at recognizing Jesus’ voice speaking to you? How effective are you at echoing it forward? If we are imitators of Christ, how do your actions bring safety, comfort and abundant life to others?
Have you ever experienced the voice of a fake shepherd trying to lead you, or someone you loved, astray? How do you distinguish the voice of Jesus verses the voice of an imposter? How would you help someone else recognize the difference?
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.”