The good shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter

The fourth Sunday of Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday/Vocations Sunday. The Gospel is taken from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.” Pope St, John Paul II says “how can we fail to see in these words an implicit reference to the mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection?” Christ freely offered himself on the cross and rose by virtue of his own divine power. This allegory (symbol) of the good shepherd is closely related to the paschal mystery and so the Church includes it in the liturgy of the Easter season for our reflection. 

Just before Jesus says this, in chapter 9, John recounts the miracle of the healing of the man born blind and the rejection of the miracle by the Jewish leaders who question Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responds by calling himself the Good shepherd. Jesus describes his relationship with his followers as similar to the relationship between a good shepherd and his sheep. A good shepherd will risk and lay down his life in order to protect his sheep, Jesus willingly sacrifices himself for the sake of his sheep. The characteristics of tenderness and toughness, care and self-sacrifice summarise Jesus’ leadership which involves physical actions and love, his own life matters less than that of his sheep. 

Jesus contrasts the actions of the good shepherd with those of the hired shepherd who abandons the sheep in the face of danger, here Jesus is talking about the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders. Although concern is part of the job of the shepherd, his actions are based on the close relationship and bond which the good shepherd has with his sheep in contrast to the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows his sheep and acts out of love, it is never just simply part of a job, but this love-in-action is integral to his identity.  

Christ’s pastoral mission is universal, it embraces everyone. Jesus gave his life for all of us out of love and to reveal the face of the Father to the whole world. Jesus sacrificed out of love. The love he had for all people. In that love he claimed his place as the Good shepherd. 

As Christians we too are called to sacrifice out of love, through our own responsibilities and actions towards others. ‘Sacrifice’ is not a popular word in today’s “me first” society where the notion of the common good is sometimes put aside in favour of personal gain and ambition. But if we look to Jesus and his example of the Good Shepherd we can offer love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control which St. Paul tells us are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, to those around us.  

This Sunday the church also celebrates World Day of Vocations. We are asked to pray for the leaders of the church and that more people will be called to religious life and the priesthood. In fact though, each of us has a personal ‘vocation’ in life and today we can ask ourselves if we are truly fulfilling our ‘vocation’. Are we the best we can possibly be in our roles as Christians, parents, children, spouses, neighbours, teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants, salespersons and so many others…….God is calling all of us to work for the Gospel.  

A reading from the Gospel John (Jn 10:11-18)

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. 

This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Read the Gospel story so that you are familiar with it. 
  2. Reflect on what the Gospel story is saying to you. Which points would you highlight and why? 
  3. Today it is Vocations Day, let us pray especially this week for new vocations. Pope Francis says; “it is an encounter with the Lord, he asks us to walk daily with him and on the days when we most need it, he is there to support us.” 
  4.  Watch this inspirational clip of the prayer “Footprints” to encourage you in your prayer-life
  5. Together with your family find the right time to read this gospel. The environment helps, so before you start, prepare:
    i. The Bible reading from John (Jn 10:11-18)
    ii. A candle
    iii. Cover the table with a white cloth
    vi. A computer/laptop with the reading and clips
  6. Go through the steps with your children (2 age groups are being suggested)
  7. Feel free to adapt to your situation
  8. Be creative 😊

Today in the Gospel Jesus tells a story. He calls himself the good shepherd, who cares for his sheep. Do you know what a shepherd does? He protects and takes care of his sheep at all times. This story shows us that Jesus knows and cares for all people.

  • That Jesus is the good shepherd
  • We are Jesus’ sheep and he cares and protects us at all times because he loves us 
  • Sheep pattern, craft card
  • Paper plates (one large, one small) 
  • Colours and pencils
  • Glue and scissors
  • Cotton wool balls 

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and tells us about His sheep. Do you know who Jesus’ sheep are? We are His sheep! Jesus loves and protects us just like a shepherd cares for his sheep. In return the sheep listen to His voice and they follow Him. Not all of the people who care for sheep are good, but a good shepherd knows every one of his sheep by name. A good shepherd needs to be strong especially when the wolves come at night to attack the sheep. A good shepherd needs to be willing to risk his life for his sheep. A good shepherd needs to be patient as some sheep may wander off alone and he needs to keep all his sheep together. A good shepherd needs to be very caring.

So you can see it’s very important that sheep have a good shepherd. Jesus is like a good shepherd, and when we believe in Jesus we become His sheep…but what does this mean? We don’t have four legs and woolly coats! It is a way to explain the kind of relationship that we have with Jesus. When we believe and trust in Jesus we become His followers. Once we belong to Jesus he will always love us and take care of us. Jesus said also that the “good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus gave Himself to die on the cross for each one of us. Jesus willingly died on the cross for our sins and when we believe this then we become His sheep. Once we become His sheep we are safe and secure because Jesus loves us and cares for us forever, just like the good shepherd.

Now it would be fun to make your own sheep.

Colour the face, legs, ears and tail of the sheep pattern and glue them onto the card (to make them stronger).

Cut them out when they are dry and stick them onto the plates. Use the small plate for the sheep’s head and the large one for the body. Glue the head onto the body and the feet and tail.

Finish your sheep by sticking cotton wool balls onto the plates as well, to make them fluffy, you could even think of a name for your sheep!

As you are doing this you can listen to this song, Shepherd of my soul.

We are going to pray to God, to thank Him for Jesus being our Good Shepherd, for giving His life for us, and for caring for us.

Today we hear how Jesus is the true Shepherd, he knows each one of us personally; he protects and takes care of us and no one can take his sheep away.

  • Caring for others means putting the needs of others before our own needs.
  • As Christians we follow the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. 
  • Door hanger template
  • Colours and pencils
  • Scissors
  • Craft card

Try to think of someone who you would describe as a caring person. They may be a close friend or a member of your family such as a grandparent or even a neighbour or a teacher. As you think about this person, think of all the ways that this person shows their care for others. 

One way that people show they care is by making sacrifices for others. For example, you are invited to your friend’s birthday party. On the day, you wake up not feeling well. What will you do? Since you care for your friends, you will stay at home. This is what we call the ‘common good’. That is, we do things for the benefit of everyone. We stay at home to keep others safe. We give up something and put the needs of others before our own. In today’s Gospel Jesus says that he is the good shepherd, “the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.” The good shepherd knows all his sheep individually and he is willing to protect his sheep at all times and from all danger. Not like the hired man, who abandons his sheep as soon as the wolf attacks. The sheep do not belong to the hired man, he has no concern for the sheep so he runs away in the face of danger, unlike the good shepherd who will protect his sheep even at the cost of his own life! Jesus is the good shepherd and we are his sheep. Jesus loves us, protects us and cares for us. Just as the sheep know the voice of the shepherd and are willing to follow him we follow Jesus by showing others that we care. If you have a pet at home then you know what a big responsibility it is, and what is involved in taking care of a pet. We have to make sure that they have plenty of food and water, a safe place to sleep and plenty of exercise. When we call our pet they know our voice and will respond to us, it is similar to what Jesus is telling us when he describes himself as the good shepherd. Jesus says that he wants us to listen to his voice today; how can we do this? We can listen to Jesus by reading about his teachings in the Bible and by praying. We trust in Jesus as the good shepherd and follow his example of caring and making sacrifices for the good of others. Each of us is precious in God’s eyes and he listens when we call out to Him. 

To remind us that Jesus is like a good shepherd who loves and takes care of his sheep, you can make a door hanger and hang it on your bedroom door. Cut out the door hanger and stick it onto the card to make it stronger. Write this verse from today’s Gospel on one side; “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep” (Jn 10:11). On the other side draw a shepherd with his crook and maybe one or two sheep and colour it. If you watch this video, it will help you to remember the verse also!

Prayer for Vocations  

Sign of the cross 

Today let us pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, that many will be inspired to show true love, to the point of sacrificing their lives to become priests of Jesus. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd raise up many shepherds to lay down their lives and carry his sheep on their shoulders. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

1. In today's Gospel Jesus likens himself to someone so as to show us that he loves us and that he leads us in the right path. To whom does Jesus liken himself?

Correct! Wrong!

2. Given that Jesus is ready to defend his sheep from every evil that might attack them, he does not run away, as the...

Correct! Wrong!

3. What do Jesus' sheep do when they meet him?

Correct! Wrong!

4. Jesus says that since he loves his sheep, he...

Correct! Wrong!

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God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.