My Sheep Hear My Voice
April 21st, 2013 (see other dates)
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Discussion Questions for Reading 1Sometimes the way we interpret the Scriptures sets up a false tension between the covenant God made with his chosen people, the Jews, and the new covenant he made with us in Jesus. God's covenant with the Jews, the covenant he made with Abraham and Moses, is forever. The Jews are still his chosen people. He will never take back his love for them. The covenant God made with us, the Gentiles, in Jesus, is also forever. In Jesus, God opened up his love to us and brought us the new message of eternal life. God's love is for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. We all belong to God!
Paul and Barnabas were Jews. They were very devout and religious Jews, and it was natural for them, after they discovered Jesus and his message, to share that message with those who shared their belief in God. For the Jews who accepted Jesus and his message, this meant a change. Why do you think the Jewish leaders of the synagogue resisted Paul and Barnabas? When do you resist a new idea? Why?
Because of this resistance, Paul and Barnabas begin their mission to the non-Jews, the Gentiles who were pagans. These were people who, if they believed at all, believed in pagan gods and goddesses. Why do you think they were open to the message that Paul and Barnabas brought to them? When are you open to new ideas? Why?
Reading 1 Acts 13:14, 43-52
Reading 1 ReflectionToday's reading allows us to share one of Paul's great victories on his first missionary journey. It is the Sabbath, and Paul goes to the local synagogue with his companion Barnabas. The city's large colony of Jews has gathered there to hear Paul's message. He proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ so well that many are converted on the spot. The word spreads rapidly and by the following Sabbath the entire city, Jew and Gentile alike, turns out to hear Paul.
Some of the leaders of the synagogue do not approve of including Gentiles in their midst. They expel Paul and Barnabas. Paul quotes Isaiah ("I have made you a light to the Gentiles") to show that Jesus will be recognized as Savior of the whole world. Not only the Jews, but the Gentiles as well prove Paul right by gladly accepting Jesus as their Lord.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2Do the long white robes and the palm branches remind you of anything? The newly baptized at the Easter Vigil are given a white garment to wear. Newly baptized infants wear baptismal gowns that are white. White is the color of victory. It is the color of resurrection! The palm branches are symbols of victory, too. When do we carry palm branches in our liturgy?
This reading calls Jesus, "the Lamb." When do we pray to the Lamb of God in the liturgy? What do we ask for in that prayer? Jesus is the lamb who sacrificed himself for us. Why do you think we pray this litany just before receiving Holy Communion? (When you think of "Lamb," think also of the Shepherd who feeds his flock.)
This reading puts three images together into one when it says, "the Lamb on the throne will shepherd them." The three images are: the Lamb who was slain, now victorious on the throne (the king), and the shepherd who will care for his flock.
Pray this prayer together: Jesus, you are Lamb, Shepherd, and King. Help us to follow you, no matter how dark or painful the journey becomes. Help us to believe that you are always with us, ready to wipe away our tears. We ask this in your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Reading 2 Revelations 7:9, 14b-17
Reading 2 ReflectionIn this vision from Revelation, huge crowds of faithful believers from every nation gather before God's throne. To Christians who are suffering persecution, this vision is comforting. They need to know that their suffering will be rewarded by Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. When the end comes, he will be there to shepherd and protect them. He "will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Discussion Questions for GospelDid you know that the brain capacity of the average dog is about the same as that of a three-year-old child? This means that dogs can understand quite a lot! It also means that there is still a lot that they cannot understand. They do not understand traffic lights, or what makes chicken bones or rat poison bad to eat.
This is why it is up to us to keep our dogs out of danger. We often use our voices to do this: "Come! Heel! Sit! Down!" This is what a good shepherd does for sheep. Just as a dog recognizes its owner's voice, sheep recognize the shepherd's voice. We, as the flock of Jesus, hear and recognize Jesus' voice. When do we hear his voice? How do we recognize it?
What can you do this week to show that you have truly heard the Good Shepherd's voice?
Gospel John 10:27-30
Gospel ReflectionThe words Jesus speaks in this reading were directed to some Jewish leaders who wanted to trip him up. They were hoping he would call himself the Messiah. Instead, Jesus refers to himself as "the Good Shepherd." He describes the secure and lasting relationship he has with his sheep, those who truly hear him and believe. Just as no one can separate Jesus and his Father, no one can take Jesus' disciples away from him.
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
Shine Your LightLike Paul and Barnabas, each of us is called to share the Light of Jesus with others. Make a class candle as a symbol of this. On a large, pillar candle, have each child place of thumbprint of paint. Place this candle on the prayer table. Light this candle each day and say the following prayer: Jesus, may Your Light shine through each of us today.
Listen. Do You Know My Voice?Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd whose sheep know and hear His voice. Explain to the children that each day we must try to be good listeners. Practice being good listeners with the following activity. Tape the voices of yourself, the children in the class, and other people around the school. Play the tape and have the children guess whose voice they are hearing.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
Life-Giving WatersThe Easter season is a season of new life. Many people have celebrated the sacraments of initiation. You yourself renewed your baptismal promises at Mass on Easter Sunday.
Today's second reading tells us that the Lamb will lead us to life-giving water. What are some of the "springs" of life-giving water that have made your faith come alive?
On a separate piece of paper, draw three (or more!) flowing streams. You may want to show them flowing from the cross. On each stream, write one of the "springs" that keeps your faith alive. Here are some suggestions: receiving the Eucharist each Sunday; the sacrament of Reconciliation; reflecting on the liturgical readings; the example of parents; the help of parish ministers; family prayer together; personal prayer and quiet time.
How can you continue to draw life from these streams?
Hear My VoiceIn today's gospel reading Jesus tells us, "My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me." Jesus is our Good Shepherd. What are some of the things you have heard from Jesus that have been helpful in your life? Write them below.
When can you take time this week to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd?
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