Every few days, another news story surfaces of an adult attempting to lure a teen from home through social media. Often the young person is captivated by the voice of abductor, who entices through seductive words. Certainly, this is a “thief” Jesus refers to in this Sunday’s Gospel, coming “only to steal and slaughter and destroy.” Jesus, on the other hand, is the gate to abundant life ~ here and in heaven!
As parents/grandparents, our most important task is shepherding our children/grandchildren in recognizing and trusting the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd—so that not one of them will be lost. Children learn to know His voice primarily through our own voice. The moment a child enters the world, the parent echoes God’s voice each time a crying baby is soothed, a toddler’s pain is eased, or a frightened child is comforted. Each and every time we express deep love for our children, they begin to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd.
The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd resonates strongly with children, according to Sofia Cavalletti, founder of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. “The points on which we linger, … are above all the protective presence of the Good Shepherd: He calls each one of His sheep by name, He knows each intimately even if there are many sheep; He calls his sheep and gradually they become accustomed to the voice of their Good Shepherd and they listen to them. In this way a precious relationship is established: a thread of love binds the sheep always more closely to their Shepherd.”
Our children/grandchildren will recognize the voice of unconditional love from the Good Shepherd, when first experienced through us. They begin to discern the trustworthy voice of God from the tempting voice of a stranger, whispering dangerous nothings into their ears. They eventually trust Jesus to lead them over the most treacherous terrain, defend them against the most devious thief or robber, and provide for their greatest needs, deepest hungers, and biggest dreams—the abundant life!
In the news recently, a young man with special needs was lured to an apartment by the coaxing voice of an acquaintance, where he was beaten and tortured—live on social media. At times, we are all susceptible to seductive voices inviting us to a shady business deal when struggling financially, a dubious party when especially lonely, a “good time” when depressed. The best way of deterring thieves and robbers is by arming our children with the ability to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd.
As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s gentle, guiding presence—by leading our children in the ways of love and compassion, by sharing the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, and by praying with —helping them to recognize and listen to Jesus—the Voice of truth, beauty, love.
Though deceased for seven years, I continue to hear my mother’s shepherding voice: “Just have faith.” “The most important thing is to be kind.” “God has a better plan for you.” She often lovingly cautioned: “Be careful.” “Pray about it.” And, sometimes, her love was voiced in a forceful, “No, you may not go because I love you.” Through a lifetime of love and faithfulness, my mother’s voice rings true as it continues to reverberate the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. When my heart hears her, I hear Him. Now, that’s good news!
Which aspect of the Good Shepherd would appeal to your child right now?
How will you help your child/grandchild listen to the voice of Jesus?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.