Children delight in the
that the parables afford.
Thus, the parable of the
lost sheep from the beginning of
Chapter 15 of the Gospel according
to Luke provides a perfect catechetical
opportunity for exploring
the theme of God's mercy. When
children are given the space and
time to meditate slowly and deeply
on this parable, they begin to
grapple with the mystery of God's
loving forgiveness, which exceeds
and triumphs over all human weakness.
While preparing to read the word of God with children,
consider how sacred scripture is approached during the Liturgy
of the Word. Prepare the catechetical space so that it is free of distractions.
Use liturgical colors to decorate, and provide a beautiful
image or statue of Mary or Christ as an object for contemplation.
Give the Bible a place of honor, on a book stand or propped on a
pillow. Consider having a short procession with the children
before reading. Processing signals to the children that the word of
God is of "regal" importance; it is also an activity that helps them
to quiet their movements as an aid to listening. Before you begin
to read, light a candle. The first reading of a parable should be a
solemn reading, modeled on the method lectors use during Mass.
After the first solemn reading, discuss any words that might
be a challenge to the children. Explain that when the shepherd
leaves the 99 in the wilderness, he does not leave them unprotected.
Shepherds would have a sheepfold in the wilderness where
the shepherd can leave the sheep. Then ask a series of questions
that aid in comprehending the parable: How many sheep did the
shepherd have? What happened to the one sheep? What did
the shepherd do? And after he found the sheep, what did he do?
Did he tell the sheep that he was bad for wandering off? Did he
punish the sheep? After he got back home, what did he do? Make
sure that the children absorb the shepherd's rejoicing so joyfully
that he cannot keep it to himself but invites others to join him.
Read the parable again, this time exploring more deeply.
For this second reading, invite the children to open their Bibles
and read along. Ask them more penetrating questions such as:
How does the shepherd feel about these sheep? How important
are these sheep to him? Does he ever give up his search? What is it
like to be lost? Why can't the sheep find his way back by himself?
Why does he need the shepherd to find him? Does he know that
the shepherd will look for him?
What else does he know about the
shepherd? How does the sheep feel
when the shepherd finds him?
What is it like for him to ride on
the shepherd's shoulders? Is he surprised
to see how happy the shepherd
is to see him? What is it like at
that party that the shepherd has?
Do you think that the sheep enjoy
the party, too? How do the other
sheep feel about the return of the
lost sheep? Do they also rejoice?
Point out that Jesus told us, "I am
the Good Shepherd." Does this
change the way we think about this
parable? Remind the children that
parables are simple stories that reveal a deeper meaning; through
these stories Jesus tells us about who God is and who we are. If
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then who are these sheep? What does
the parable reveal about how Jesus feels about his "sheep"? Is this
surprising? Is this how we usually understand God? What is Jesus
trying to tell us?
If some of the children in your group are preparing for the
sacrament of Reconciliation, ask the children if anything about
this parable reminds them of the sacrament. Be gentle and discreet,
allowing the children to discover connections at their own
pace. Knowledge acquired through such discovery remains more
lasting and meaningful than what is spoon fed. If the children
cannot make the connections, save this meditation for another
day, after the children have had further opportunity to meditate
on the Rite of Penance. The examination of conscience will begin
to resonate with the moment in the parable when the sheep realizes
that he is lost. The moment when the sheep is found will
begin to inform an appreciation for the experience of confession.
The strength the sheep feels when lifted onto the shepherd's
shoulders may remind them of the prayer of absolution, when
the power of God transforms them.
Finally, the feast that the shepherd prepares and to which
he calls others can recall the Eucharist, that moment of celebration
when all the sheep have been returned to the fold. This
understanding can lead to a profound hunger for first Holy
Communion, the next step on the journey.
is a formation leader with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and author of Children's Daily Prayer 2006, published by Liturgy Training Publications.