23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Disciples Follow
(Adults, the Gospel for this Sunday deals with the cost of discipleship. Three years ago I decided that I could not write a reflection for 3-6 year-olds about this because it is not an aspect of their spiritual life. Instead, I wrote about the first reading. You may prefer that and you can find it here. This year, I decided to give it a shot! I tried to focus it on being a disciple, not the cost.)
So many times when we listen to the Bible, we hear about people following Jesus. They love listening to him speak about the Kingdom of God. They love listening to him talk about his sheep—the sheep of the Good Shepherd. They wonder about those sheep; we wonder about them, too. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus looks out at the large crowds of people following him, and perhaps they remind him of his sheep.
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
What is Jesus saying? He is talking about disciples. A disciple is someone who follows. All these people are following Jesus. They want to be disciples. They need to know how to be a disciple. They need to know how to follow.
Jesus knows a lot about following because of those sheep of the Good Shepherd. He tells us,
The Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:3b-4).
The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow him. They are disciples. But how do they follow?
Jesus says the Good Shepherd calls them and they know his voice. Even if they close their eyes, they will know where to go. Why? We know, don't we? We know they listen.
The Good Shepherd knows each of his sheep so well. He calls them by name. He gives them everything. He says,
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:10b-11).
He gives them his life. He must love those sheep so much.
And what about the sheep? They love him, too. They follow only him.
We wonder, who loves more: the sheep or the Good Shepherd? It is hard to decide. The love of the Good Shepherd is so big.
What if one of the other sheep wants to go a different way from the Good Shepherd? What if a sheep's brother or sister says, "Hey! Let's go this way instead." What will the sheep do? They love their brothers and sisters. Will the sheep follow them? Nope. They love the Good Shepherd more.
What if a sheep's father or mother says, "I think you should follow me instead." What will the sheep do? The sheep love their father and mother. Will the sheep follow the father or mother? Nope. They love the Good Shepherd more.
The sheep are disciples. They follow the Good Shepherd. They listen to his voice. They love him the most.
Do they hate their brothers or sisters, fathers or mothers? No, no, no. Of course, they love their family. But their love for the Good Shepherd is so big it makes all the other loves seem smaller. They love him so much. He gives them everything—even their brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. Their hearts are full and they follow only him.