Good Shepherd Sunday (Ages 3-6): Knowing and Loving
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Verses 11, 14-16 are best suited for the 3-6 year old. In this reflection, I wonder about who the sheep of the Good Shepherd might be. The child might not have an answer for this yet, and the realization may take a long time--years, perhaps--but when the child makes this discovery on his or her own, s/he will be filled with such joy!)
When we listen to the Bible, we hear about people following Jesus. Some of them are disciples. Some of them just follow him because they wonder about him. Nobody speaks about the Kingdom of God the way Jesus does. When they are with him, people can just tell that something important is going to happen. They want to know more about him. So Jesus tells them,
I am the Good Shepherd.
We know that a shepherd is someone who takes care of sheep. We wonder where Jesus' sheep are. There don't seem to be any sheep around. There are only people, following him.
But Jesus does not say he is a shepherd.
He does not say he is a good shepherd.
He says he is the Good Shepherd.
If he is the Good Shepherd, are there any other good shepherds?
No. He is the One.
Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd. We wonder what makes him good. Maybe a better question is, who makes him good?
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
He lays down his life...for the sheep. It sounds like this is a gift. What does Jesus mean? We know that Jesus dies on the cross. Maybe "laying down his life" means dying on the cross. Maybe dying on the cross is a gift for the sheep.
But we also know that Jesus rises from the dead. Death is not the end. He is filled with the Risen life of God and can never die again. We wonder if he lays down this life for the sheep, too. Maybe the Risen life of God is a gift for the sheep, too.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gives so much to the sheep. His whole life. Why does he do this?
I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me
Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Maybe he knows that the sheep need his life. Maybe that is why he lays down his life for them.
We wonder how well Jesus knows his sheep. We don't even know who these sheep are. Do we?
I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
Jesus knows the sheep in the same way that God knows Jesus. So how does God know Jesus?
We remember that when Jesus is baptized, the heavens are torn apart and the Holy Spirit comes down upon him and God the Father says, "You are my son, the Beloved." Jesus is God's Son. Jesus is beloved by God. This means that God loves Jesus sooooooooo much.
If this is how God knows Jesus, by loving him sooooooooo much, then this is how Jesus knows the sheep. The heavens are torn apart, the Holy Spirit comes down, and the Good Shepherd loves his sheep. He loves them sooooooooo much! These sheep are so very special.
We wonder about these sheep. They know Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Who could the sheep be? Who knows Jesus?
The Good Shepherd gives his whole life to them. He loves them sooooooooo much. How wonderful, then, to be a sheep of the Good Shepherd!