Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides 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.


Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

Sunday, April 22, 2018


This Sunday’s Readings


First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12
Peter announces an act of healing in the name of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118:1,8-9,21-23,26,28,29
A prayer of thanksgiving to God for his kindness

Second Reading
1 John 3:1-2
God revealed his love for us by calling us children of God.

Gospel Reading
John 10:11-18
Jesus says that he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. In each of the three lectionary cycles, our Gospel is taken from the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John. In Cycle B, we hear the middle verses of this chapter. Unless we consider this chapter in the greater context of John’s Gospel, we will miss the radical nature of the statement Jesus makes when he declares himself to be the Good Shepherd.

This chapter of John’s Gospel follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by the Jewish leaders who question Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responds to this challenge by calling himself the Good Shepherd. He is criticizing the leadership of the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders. The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders are so angry that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (see John 10:31,39). This controversy with the religious leaders continues until Jesus’ death.

In the portion of the chapter that we hear proclaimed today, Jesus describes his relationship with his followers as similar to the relationship between a good shepherd and his sheep. As 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. Jesus contrasts the actions of the good shepherd with the actions of the hired shepherd who abandons the sheep in the face of danger. In the verses following Jesus' teaching, we learn that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that Jesus is referring to them when he describes the hired shepherds.

The concern of a good shepherd for his sheep is part of the shepherd’s job. Jesus says, however, that the actions of the good shepherd are based upon the relationship that develops between the shepherd and the sheep. This is at the heart of the difference between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows the sheep and therefore acts out of love. For the Good Shepherd, this is never simply part of a job; this love-in-action is integral to his identity.

As with so much of John’s Gospel, one hears in this passage John’s particular focus on Christology. As the sheep are known by the Good Shepherd, the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father. There is an essential unity between the Father and the Son. The freedom with which Jesus acts when he lays down his life is rooted in the unity that he shares with his Father.

In this context, Jesus also refers to others with whom he shares a relationship. By this reference, John probably understands the eventual inclusion of the Gentiles in the Christian community. Our modern ears hear this as a reference to Christian unity. The work of ecumenism is to restore unity among all Christians so that we form one flock under one shepherd, as God desires.


Gospel Reading
John 10:11-18
Jesus says that he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

We sometimes do things we don’t like in order to achieve a goal. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did all he did on earth because he wanted to show us God’s love.

Materials Needed

  • Pictures of a bicycle and soccer ball/player (or any other pictures that work with the lesson)

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children to think of one activity they like to do—ride a bicycle, play soccer, dance, and so on. Show them the two pictures you have chosen.

  2. Tell the children that even though they may enjoy riding a bicycle or playing soccer, they may have to do some things they don’t enjoy in order to get ready. Invite them to share their thoughts. For example, if they like riding a bicycle, they must wear a helmet, accept the bumps and bruises that come with learning to ride, and put away the bike after use. To play soccer, they may have to show up for practices, wear the proper protective equipment, and give up some of their free time.

  3. Explain that if people will do things they don’t like in order to enjoy something they really like, they will go through much more for someone they love, like for their friends or for their parents, and especially for God.

  4. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says he is like a shepherd who wants to care for his sheep because he loves them. Because he loves the sheep, the Good Shepherd will do anything to keep them safe.

  5. Read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 10:11–18.

  6. Say: Jesus is really saying that he loves us so much that he did all he did while on earth—not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Everything he did, he did out of love for us.

  7. Conclude in prayer, asking God to help us want to serve others as Jesus did. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.


Gospel Reading
John 10:11-18
Jesus says that he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

Older children are beginning to appreciate the fact that other people make sacrifices for them because they care about them. Jesus taught us by his example to serve others in love.

Materials Needed

  • Paper, pencils

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: Have you ever known someone to give up something important in order to help you? Think about a teacher who gave up lunch to help you with homework, a friend who chose to attend your party instead of going to a ballgame, or a parent who stayed up with you at night when you were sick. Instruct the children to write a brief paragraph describing what someone gave up in order to help them.

  2. Say: When we give up something important to us to help another person, we are said to make a sacrifice. Ask the children to think about a time when they made a sacrifice for another person. Instruct them to write a second brief paragraph about this.

  3. Say: Jesus taught us about this kind of sacrificial service in today’s Gospel. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today’s Gospel, John 10:11-18.

  4. Say: In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the example of a shepherd to demonstrate the kind of service we wrote about. He used this example because it was familiar to his listeners. But today we’re less familiar with the work of shepherds. What other models might we use to teach the kind of sacrificial service that Jesus described? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  5. Say: Whenever we serve others in ways that put their needs before our own, we are following the example that Jesus gave us.

  6. Conclude in prayer together that we will follow Jesus’ example of loving service. Pray together Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer for Generosity.


Gospel Reading
John 10:11-18
Jesus says that he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people are learning that caring for others requires putting the needs of others before their own. We can help them consider how Christians follow the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who puts the good of those in his care before his own.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Invite the young people to think of someone they would describe as a caring person. Then ask: In what ways does this person show care for others? Allow some time for quiet reflection.

  2. Say: One way that people show care is by making sacrifices for others, giving up something important or putting the good of another person before their own. What are some examples of ways that people show care for others by making a sacrifice? (Accept all reasonable answers, for example, giving time or money to help a person in need, staying home with a sick child, or giving time to help another with homework.)

  3. Say: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus contrasts the ways in which a shepherd and a hired man act when the sheep in their care are in danger. Let’s listen carefully to this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 10:11–18.

  5. Ask: How does the hired man act when the sheep are in danger? (He runs away.) What does Jesus say that the good shepherd will do for his sheep? (lay down his life for the sheep) Why does the good shepherd act differently than the hired man? (The good shepherd cares for the sheep.)

  6. Say: Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.  Jesus gives us an example of how we are to care for others. Whenever we care for others in ways that puts their needs before our own, we are following the example of Jesus.

  7. Ask the young people to give examples of situations in which they have opportunities to care for others in their family, in their school, or in their community. Help them to identify actions they can take to follow Jesus’ example of loving service.

  8. Conclude in prayer together that we will follow Jesus’ example of loving service. Pray together the Prayer for Generosity or the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 118.


Gospel Reading
John 10:11-18
Jesus says that he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep.


Family Connection

The Good Shepherd makes sacrifices for the sheep not because it is required, but because it is a choice. That sounds a lot like parenting and the dynamics of a healthy family life. Parents choose to make sacrifices for their children out of love, not obligation. Christian parents model and invite their children to choose to make sacrifices for other family members and for other people, acting out of love rather than obligation.

When you gather as a family, invite each family member to consider the attitude that permeates their participation in family life. Read a common examen, such as any of the following: Do we do family chores cheerfully and without having to be asked multiple times? Do we gladly share with others? Do we willingly contribute to the family good when asked? Read aloud today’s Gospel, John 10:11-18. Discuss together how the example of the Good Shepherd might inspire your family life. Invite each family member to make a renewed commitment to one action/attitude to focus on in the upcoming week that show that we will choose to follow the example of the Good Shepherd. Pray together that we will be able to honor our commitment. Pray together Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer for Generosity.