My daughter greeted me at the door with great anxiety: “Mom, the worst thing was on the news. I mean, the worst thing happened. I can’t even imagine. I don’t even want to speak of it because it’s so horrible. Mom, a man snatched a 5-year-old boy from his mother and threw him off a third-floor balcony in the Mall of America. The report said that everyone was frantic. There was blood everywhere. People who witnessed are in shock. It’s the worst.” It is the worst nightmare a mother or father could imagine. A person taking your child from you — from your hand — is almost unspeakable.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus the Good Shepherd speaks of his love and intimacy with his sheep: He knows each of his sheep, and they know him, they hear his voice and follow him. Jesus then says, “No one can take them out of my hand.” He promises that no one — not one of his sheep — will be taken out of his hand. A shepherd protects his flock by sleeping at the sheep gate, so wolves and thieves cannot enter and steal a little sheep. Jesus, by declaring himself the Good Shepherd, claims his willingness to protect his sheep — us and our children — at the greatest cost of laying down his life.
Our worst nightmare, our sweating in the dark, pictures our child/grandchild being taken by a trafficker, grabbed by a child abuser or snatched by a deranged person. Some of our children are being swept away by addiction or depression. Many are being taken through secularism, materialism, self-centeredness. Yet Jesus promises that not one of his sheep will be taken from his hands. Jesus promises. Jesus promises. And we can trust his promises for he is the Good Shepherd who died for us.
As parents, we are the earthly shepherds of our children, leading them to Jesus, warning them of danger, guarding them from evil, and guiding them in the ways of faith, hope and love. Ours is the privilege and task of assuring that not one of our sheep, our children, will be taken or snatched from Jesus’ love. We name grace — God’s loving presence — by teaching our children to listen to the voice of Jesus in prayer, Scripture, worship, and speaking to our children with the voice of Jesus’ love, compassion, mercy, gentleness, care and concern.
Though many believed the little boy would die from the horrific fall at the Mall of America, he survived. His parents reported through their attorney, “All praise, glory and honor to Jesus! He saved our son’s life and is healing him in the most miraculous ways.” They rejoiced, “… our son is now alert and conscious and is no longer in critical condition.” Praise God is right!
Sadly, we also know there are children who are taken from loving, faithful parents — and who die. Yet as one of Jesus’ sheep, no child can ever be taken from his hand. As Jesus promised, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Jesus promises that those children who are taken from their parents, grandparents and loved ones on earth will enter the “great multitude” in heaven, where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” That’s his promise. Now, that’s good news.
How will you guide your child in the ways of the Good Shepherd?
When have you feared for the safety of your child?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To connect with Mary Pedersen: www.marypedersen.com.