Jesus the Good Shepherd
by Marilena Berardinelli
Following the events of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the first Christian communities sought to keep the memory of Jesus alive. Initially, they did so through oral narratives, then by committing the stories in writing in the forms of letters and gospels. These writings would eventually form the canon of the New Testament and as sacred scripture would inform and shape how subsequent generations of Christians would answer the question posed by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). In addition, to these oral and written accounts, Christians began to express their understandings of Jesus’s nature and mission in art. Similar to today’s popular acceptance of the cross as a symbol of the Christian faith, one of the earliest and most common motifs for Jesus was the portrait of Christ the Good Shepherd; the icon of a shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders standing amid his flock. This image of the Good Shepherd, as a metaphor for Jesus, has nourished the spirituality and apostolate of the church throughout the ages. In the mid twentieth century, Hebrew scholar Sofia Cavaletti and her Montessori trained collaborator Gianna Gobbi founded the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), a unique catechetical approach that has as its primary goal to nurture the religious potential of the child. Centred on the person of Jesus, Caveletti’s research showed that the aspect of Christ that most speaks to young child is Jesus the Good Shepherd, who calls his sheep by name to a personal relationship with him and who lays down his life for his sheep, nurturing and protecting them. In 2016, St. Basil’s began the journey to bring CGS to the youngest of our parishioners. At the heart of our Atrium, the children work with a simple wooden sheepfold, ten sheep and the Good Shepherd lovingly carrying the last of his sheep on his shoulders. This material, like the early icon of the Good Shepherd, is a starting point for the child’s journey into entering the mystery of the merciful and bountiful love of God. Today’s liturgical celebration of the Good Shepherd invites us to share the awe and wonder of the young child who meets Jesus the Good Shepherd for the first time and who then meets Him most fully in the Eucharist. In the busyness of our lives, in the noisiness of our world, may we listen to and discern the voice of the Good Shepherd calling each of us by name and may we respond to His invitation to faithfully and joyfully follow Him always.