Easter Sunday (Ages 3-6): The Good Shepherd Lives
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
Long before Jesus dies on the cross, he tells his friends that he is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. We can wonder what "lays down his life" means. We know that Jesus gives his whole life in the bread and the wine at the Last Supper. We know that Jesus gives his whole life on the cross. He dies.
People think that death is the end. They know that dead bodies do not get up and walk and talk. That is true. But there is more truth.
What happens when Jesus gives his whole life as a gift? God fills him with new life--God's own life--abundant life! Jesus will never die again. His Risen life is so much stronger than death.
This is something we have known for a long time. In fact, we have always known it, haven't we? In the Gospel for Easter Sunday, the first Sunday of the Easter season, we hear about the first person to know it.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb
Mary Magdalene is one of Jesus' friends. She has seen Jesus die on the cross on Friday, and his dead body put in the tomb. A tomb is like a cave made of rock. When the body of someone dead is put into it, a huge stone is rolled over the opening to the tomb. Tombs stay closed. The dead stay buried there because the dead do not grow and change.
After two long nights, it is Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene comes to visit the tomb. What does she expect to see? Mary Magdalene does not expect to see anything except the huge stone covering the opening of the tomb. But what does she find?
the stone had been removed from the tomb.
The tomb is wide open! Mary Magdalene knows that this is not right. This is not how we show respect for people who have died.
Where is Jesus? His dead body should still be lying in the tomb, but it is not there. The tomb is empty.
What does Mary Magdalene think? She runs to tell two of Jesus' disciples that she thinks someone has,
‘taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’
She thinks that someone has removed Jesus' dead body and has buried it somewhere else. How can she visit the place where he is buried if she doesn't know where it is?
What does Mary Magdalene do?
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.
She is already upset because Jesus has died, and now his body is lost. She doesn't know where Jesus is. I wonder if Mary Magdalene feels lost.
What does the Good Shepherd do when a sheep is lost?
he finds it (Luke 15:4)
So, at that moment, Mary Magdalene,
turned round and saw Jesus standing there
Jesus died on the cross, but now he is standing there!
Jesus' body was dead, but now it is filled with new life!
He has grown, he has changed! The Good Shepherd lives!
Now we know that not even death can stop the Good Shepherd from finding his sheep!
Jesus is risen to new life never to die again!
But there is still a problem.
she did not know that it was Jesus.
Mary Magdalene does not seem to know Jesus in his new Risen life. She is not expecting to see him alive. She thinks he must be a gardener.
So what does Jesus do?
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’
He calls her by name.
Jesus tells us that the Good Shepherd,
calls his own sheep by name...and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:3b-4)
Mary Magdalene knows his voice. Now she knows who he is.
Now she knows what we know--that he is Jesus who is Risen.
Now Mary Magdalene can celebrate with us, and together we can sing out all our Alleluias that we have been saving up all Lent long!
God's life is stronger than death.
God's light is stronger than darkness.
Happy Easter! God bless you!