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The Image of the Good Shepherd
  • Formation
  • Prayer
  • Theology
Elizabeth Aquila

As I observe the children in my Pre-K and Kindergarten Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class, I notice how they continually return to work with the Parable of the Good Shepherd. This draws me to likewise reflect on Christ as the Good Shepherd. 


Throughout Scripture, there are several references to shepherds and sheep. The Lord in Jeremiah 50:6 says, “My people have been lost sheep.” Psalm 23 bears the well-known verse, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.…” Famously, in John 21, Christ tells St. Peter to “feed my sheep.” Consistently, this rich imagery affirms the Lord’s provision, protection, and guidance for us. 


I have found the children so drawn to this work. They repeatedly come back to engage with the material. When asked, “What do we know about the Good Shepherd?” They respond, “He calls us by name;” “He leads us out;” “He knows us;” “He loves us.” I am reminded of what I learned during my catechist formation, that the unfathomable mystery of Jesus Christ cannot be exhausted by a single image or name. The most appealing image for the child is often Christ the Good Shepherd. It captures the heart of Jesus in relationship with us. It satisfies a child’s capacity for relationship.  


As catechists, it is our responsibility to wonder along with the child and help them enter more deeply into the truth. Their sense of wonder is the stimulus of growth. When wonder is cultivated, it changes the way we live. Wonder and awe naturally evolve into praise and thanksgiving. I see this in the children when at the end of every presentation we ask, “Is there anything you would like to tell Jesus the Good Shepherd?” They respond with gratitude. “Thank you for the Good Shepherd;" "Thank you for the food;” “Thank you for my baby brother!” “Thank you for the trees and the grass;” “Thank you for my dog.” It is beautiful to witness this thanksgiving, an essential part of our relationship with Christ. It teaches me to find gratitude in the daily gifts that our heavenly Father has given.  


Teaching in the Catechesis atrium has given new meaning to Matthew's gospel verse: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).


Through my experience with the catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I have learned more intimately the depths of the Lord’s teaching, the call to a spiritual childhood. St. John writes, “See what love the father has given us that we should be called children of God, and so we are” (1 John 3:1). In Christ, we become sons and daughters of God; the truth of this is evident when Jesus taught us to pray, He told us to call God "Abba" (Matthew 6:9), the Aramaic word for Father.


I find that to “become like children” invites us into a conversion of heart. A child’s virtue lies in this disposition: simplicity of life, where all is gift. This simplicity opens the heart, not to prideful presumption, but to humility.


And simple souls, unburdened by worldly concern, see God, and they hear the voice of their Shepherd.