Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 21, 2024

April 21, 2024


April 21, 2024

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sharon M.K.

Sharon M.K.



It was 1981 and I was 22 years old, very idealistic, a newly minted college graduate and had just arrived at the first day of training for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Midwest region.  There were close to 40 of us, we were all roughly around the same age, fresh out of college.  Each one getting ready to work in cities and towns throughout the Midwest, have our room and board covered and be paid $60 per month for incidentals.  The Jesuit Volunteer Corps, JVC for short, is most easily described as a kind of domestic peace corps involving a year or two of service while living in community engaging in a kind of spiritual discernment with others who are doing the same thing.  The motto of the organization used to be “Guaranteed to ruin you for life.”  My parents were not the least bit thrilled by this post-college choice of mine.

Some volunteers are placed in urban settings, others in rural areas.  The placements varied greatly and often included community-organizing, teaching in struggling schools, staffing shelters or clinics and many other options.  We were hoping to do good work for people who needed us and we believed, largely because of our youth and idealism that we could make a difference.  We were textbook “do-gooders” charged up, ready to go, pointing to injustices, thinking that by our mere presence we could make a dent in the status quo.  What most of us didn’t really consider was… sacrifice.  Until the first day of training that is.  That was when the director of the program, a Jesuit, asked us “What we were willing to die for?”  

You see up until that point, we thought sacrifice meant postponing graduate school or a high paying job that would have started us on our respective life journeys after this brief detour of service.  Sacrifice was not about, well, actual sacrifice.  We were only on a detour.  What did this guy mean?!  “What are you willing to die for?!”  We all quaked in our seats.

I won’t leave you in suspense; it took several more years for me to truly understand that question, much less try to answer it.  I have though, always been grateful for the question.  It has served as a daring reminder over and over again of the high stakes of faith.  It forces one to look straight at the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and ask if we are actually paying attention at all.  It was taking the story of the Good Shepherd and inserting us in as naïve idealists who had so little knowledge of the actual world and even less of ourselves.  Growing up I had heard the story of the Good Shepherd many times and was comforted by it, but did I really understand what it meant, or could I make sense of where God’s hand was really guiding me?  Nope.    

What are you willing to leave behind to follow me?  What are you willing to die for?  These were the questions that pushed me way beyond my comfort zone that JVC year.  Suddenly my post-college detour as an idealistic do-gooder was beckoning me to encounter Christ in a whole new way.

If my baptism and confirmation were more than mere life markers or ritual gestures then this business of being Christian, part of a larger whole means that I must pay attention, I must care, always.  The “detour” was no longer that, the “detour” became the path.  Those sacraments were lifetime marching orders that were all about embracing sacrifice as an act of love for God and because of God.  

It is the end of April and we are powering through our days, refreshed by the spiritual fulfillment of Easter but still perhaps disconnected from what it means in practice.  We forget that we are of God and that to know that kind of love is to know that there is much to do in this world and that the work of God goes far beyond our daily worries.  We are in need of reminders about this work, to be remember why we must care.  In “Prayers for a Privileged People” theologian Walter Brueggemann writes:

“We need to be reminded of the ones who lack the voice or whose voice we do not often hear.  We think them unlike us, but they are our neighbors – the widows, the orphans, the immigrants, the poor, the laborers, the prisoners, the slaves, the addicts.  They are the ones who dwell in places short of mercy, absent of justice, defaulted on the gifts of life.  They are noticed acutely by God.  Are they noticed by us?”

I wish my 22 year-old self knew then that laying down one’s life was not supposed to be understood in the literal sense but rather in the constant, acutely aware sense that we are all sheep.  The poor, the scholar, the addict, the CEO, the beaten and the beater, me, you, all sheep.  It is God who tends to us, who loves us so that we might do the same for each other, it is God who loves us so that we might come to see the pain in this world and act to make things better with whatever means, goods or gifts we have.  

One of my fondest memories from my chaplaincy days at Yale is an annual trip where we would take over a dozen sophomores to Washington DC for the first week of spring break.  It was time away from campus to explore various houses of worship and communities of faith, to volunteer and to experience the extraordinary connectedness humans can have with one another through acts of radical hospitality.  The first sacred site we would visit each year was to a Sikh Temple, a Gurdwara.  We would spend time learning about some of the principles and tenets of Sikhism, participate in their weekly service and then enjoy what is called a langer meal with the community.  The langer meal that we share while sitting on the ground is also considered part of the service.  It is an overwhelmingly humbling experience.  One year something the spiritual leader of the Gurdwara said to us stayed in the forefront of our hearts and minds throughout the trip.  His words were simple, yet powerful, “You must come to the Temple to gain knowledge.  It is when you go out into the world that you must worship.”  

He was emphasizing a point not terribly different from how we are trying to live as followers of Christ.  We gather in community, as church as diverse members of the body of Christ to be reminded, to be fed by the spirit and then are sent out to care for one another because of this knowledge.  As people of God, we must care.  

Benedictine nun, Sr. Joan Chittister acknowledges that we “live out the kind of God we believe in.”  In other words, if we believe in a vengeful God, then we live a bitter life, cold and hard, suspicious of difference, our hearts empty, no need to care.  If we believe in a Good Shepherd God then we are, each one of us, held as we navigate through the shadows of life, as we encounter illness of body or mind in ourselves or others, as we see despair and try to ease it, as we see the absence of justice and respond.  These are the things that our God is acutely aware of and is constantly tending.  We look to the Good Shepherd God to show us the way and we look to one another each of us, sheep, to follow, to care.  

My beloved let us say, Amen

First Reading

Acts 4:8-12


Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

Second Reading

1 Jn 3:1-2


Jn 10:11-18
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Sharon M.K. Kugler

Sharon M.K. Kugler

Sharon M.K. Kugler became the seventh University Chaplain to Yale in July of 2007 and retired in June of 2023.  She came to New Haven from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where she had served as the University Chaplain since 1993.  Sharon has over three decades of experience in ministry in higher education, interfaith collaboration, pastoral and social ministry. Her main focus at Yale was to further cultivate a chaplaincy for students, faculty and staff which defines itself by serving the needs of the richly diverse religious and spiritual traditions on campus allowing for deeper dialogue, increased accessibility, personal growth, creative educational opportunities and pastoral leadership.  Sharon holds the appointment of Lecturer of Inter-Religious Engagement and Chaplaincy at the Yale Divinity School and is a contributing author to College & University Chaplaincy in the 21st Century: A Multifaith Look at the Practice of Ministry on Campuses across America.  Sharon was the first woman, first lay-person and first Roman Catholic to hold this position at Yale.

Sharon is the past president of both the National Association of College and University Chaplains (NACUC) and the Association of College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA).  She served on the Executive Committee of the International Association of Chaplains in Higher Education (IACHE) until 2014.  In June of 2012 she hosted the Global Conference of Chaplains in Higher Education at Yale University welcoming over 450 participants from 25 countries and 11 religious traditions.  Sharon received her Masters degree from Georgetown University and is a member of the Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology. Her thesis, "The Limits and Possibilities of Building a Religiously Plural Community" was used by the United States Department of Defense Office of the Chief of Chaplains as a training tool for new chaplains in the military. Sharon has received honorary doctorates from St. Joseph University in West Hartford, CT, Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA and Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT.   She is married to Duane Isabella, has two daughters and eight grandchildren.  In her retirement, Sharon is figuring things out as she goes along and continuing to learn from detours along the way.



The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world.  The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.

“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association

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