This Fourth Sunday of the Easter Season is lovingly referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” It is a “feast day” of sorts for the children and adults who participate in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd approach, with some of our favorite readings and hymns. During worship on Sunday some of our children will be celebrating Eucharist together, culminating a sacramental retreat held Saturday.
One of our primary aims of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is for the children to fall in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and to see the Kingdom of God as a place they want to be, developing a relationship grounded in love, not in fear. The parable of the Good Shepherd is the central theme for the 3-6 year-old child, revealing the personal love and protective presence of Christ who calls us by name, knows us intimately, and to whom we learn to listen and follow. According to Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, “Through this parable the child’s silent request to be loved and so to be able to love finds response and gratification.”
Often the youngest child equates the image of the Good Shepherd to that of a parent who cares for the child. As Fr. Louis Leon reminded us in his sermon on this date last year, in the parable, Jesus never promised that nothing bad will ever happen or that we will be shielded from all trouble. Instead, the good news is that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will be with us, beside us, always. One of the greatest religious capacities is the need for relationship and celebration is that relationship, illustrated in this parable.
For the older child this image is integrated with that of Jesus as the True Vine (John 15) which introduces the covenant relationship between the Father, Jesus, and us, drawing the child into the mystery of a life-giving union with Christ which bears fruit for the world and inviting us to “abide” in this love. Jesus the Good Shepherd calls us to follow, Jesus the True Vine invites us to stay, to remain. The children who have been participating in sacramental preparation have explored these images of Jesus and our inextricable relationship with him. They are celebrating that relationship today in the Holy Eucharist.