Down the shepherd climbed. It was hard work, for it was dark among the rocks. But the shepherd did not mind. It was even harder work getting back, with the little lamb on his shoulders, but he was happy, because he had found the lost lamb. He rejoiced all the way back in the darkness and in the storm. When he reached home he called to his friends. "Rejoice with me, for I have found my lamb which was lost."
It was Jesus who told this story. He wanted to show them how much He loved every one of us. We are all His sheep, His little lambs, and He is the great Shepherd. He loves us even more than a good shepherd loves his sheep. He can save us from worse things than wolves, and when one of us does wrong, that one is the little lamb that gets lost. But if we call to Him He comes and Carries us back in His arms to grace and virtue.
Now if Jesus is so good a shepherd, nothing is more just than that we should endeavor to be good sheep, and the only way we can be good sheep is to play the part of a good guardian over our own souls. Oh, value your soul and keep it as the apple of your eye, that you may not lose it. Watch and pray, for there are many perils of your soul. Guard your senses, especially your eyes, turn them away from sin. Value your soul more highly than all earthly goods, and be always resolved to make any and every sacrifice for its salvation.
St. Agnes was born about the year 292. Her parents were very rich, and they were also good Christians, and brought up their only child in the fear of God. When she was about twelve years old, a pagan met her coming home from school, and tempted her to sin, promising her many valuable jewels. But Agnes rejected the temptation, and told him to be gone, for she would never offend God for anything in the world.
The young man was very angry, and he denounced her to the pagan judge as being a Christian. When the judge told her that torture and death was the fate of Christians, Agnes boldly answered: "Never will I consent to offend my God by sin, and joyfully will I suffer the loss of all things rather than lose my soul."
The firmness of the child filled the judge with wonder, but also with great wrath, and he handed her over to Aspasius, one of his underlings that he might put her to death.
Aspasius commanded a great fire to be kindled, to burn her alive. But God was pleased to work a wonder, for when Agnes was thrown into the fire, the flames made room for her without touching her. The pagans standing near, however, were devoured by the flames. St. Agnes prayed to God, that now, since she had confessed His holy Name, He would be pleased to take her to Himself in heaven. When she had finished her prayer the fire suddenly went out. Then Aspasius gave orders that the executioner should cut her neck with a sword.
The executioner gave her a fatal blow, and her happy soul went at once to her God in Heaven, Whom she so tenderly loved. Our soul is a pearl beyond all price. Like Agnes we should be willing to suffer all rather than stain it by sin. She gave to you children a good example how to be a good shepherd of your soul.
Children, we, as faithful followers of the Good Shepherd, must do His bidding and carry out His plan of work. In the Holy Catholic Church He feeds His sheep with the bread of His divine Word, and in Holy Communion with His own Flesh and Blood.
As good shepherds we must pasture our soul, that is, we must furnish it with whatever is necessary for the preservation of its supernatural life. We must feed our soul with the word of God. The word of God enlightens us; it strengthens us to overcome all obstacles in the way of salvation; it comforts in tribulations and raises thoughts to heavenly things. Listen with pleasure to the word of God, and make it the rule of your life.
We must feed our soul with Holy Communion, for this is the best and most nutritious nourishment. It is Holy Communion that increases sanctifying grace, weakens the evil inclinations, and fortifies us with supernatural strength to overcome all temptations. All pious Christians deem themselves happy to be able to go frequently to Communion. Children, be not hirelings, who let their sheep hunger and languish, but be good shepherds and feed your soul; go to Holy Communion as often as your confessor considers you worthy.
Let us be good shepherds of our soul. Our soul is the most precious treasure we possess, for it is created in the image of God and destined to enjoy eternal life in heaven.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921