(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, John tells Jesus about someone who is not following him. John is one of Jesus' close friends, one of the apostles. He is the one who, years later, remembers Jesus' words about the Good Shepherd and writes them down. Because of John, we know about the sheep who follow the Good Shepherd because they know his voice. John is very interested in those who follow and those who do not.
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
John says that the person he saw was "casting out demons." This sounds strange. We do not really understand what this means. The parable of the Good Shepherd can help us understand this strange thing. Jesus says the sheep only follow his voice, and that:
They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.
The Good Shepherd's sheep do not follow the stranger's voice. Casting out demons is like making the stranger stop talking and go away. The sheep can hear the Good Shepherd better when the stranger is gone.
The person John saw was casting out demons in Jesus' name. The person thinks he is using Jesus' name to make the stranger to go away. He thinks he is using Jesus' power. He thinks he is doing this for Jesus.
But John does not know this person. He says,
we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
John does not like the person using Jesus' name because the person does not follow Jesus. John follows Jesus. The other apostles follow Jesus. All the disciples follow Jesus; that is what disciples do. This person does not follow Jesus so John thinks he should not be using Jesus' name to make the stranger go away.
But Jesus says,
“Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.
Jesus is not concerned that the person does not follow. He knows the person is using his name to do something that helps the sheep. Jesus knows that the person does not follow...yet.
What does "yet" mean? In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus says,
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
It seems that there are other sheep who do not belong...yet. Jesus will call them and they will come. Does it matter that John does not know this person? No. The person does not follow Jesus, now, but he will.
For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
We know that the Good Shepherd gives his sheep fresh water. Giving water to the thirsty is the work of the Good Shepherd. If someone gives John a cup of water when he is thirsty, that person is doing Jesus' work.
Jesus tells John that he bears Jesus' name. He carries Jesus' name because he is so close to Jesus. If someone gives John water because he is someone so close to Jesus, that person will get to be close to Jesus, too. It is the best reward.
We know that when we come to the church to be baptized, the priest makes this sign on our forehead with his thumb:
This is the sign of the cross. We bear it on our forehead. We carry it into the world wherever we go. The cross is Jesus' sign. We carry it because we are so close to Jesus, too.
If someone gives us a cup of water when we are thirsty, if they do this because they know we are so close to Jesus, will they get to be close to Jesus, too?