Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 358 – Reason for Hope – 6th Sunday of Easter

May 21st, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Door to DoorAs we read about the spread of the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles, it’s easy to forget that the impetus that first caused this going forth was a persecution that arose in Jerusalem. Even today, we sometimes need a little “push” to get us going sharing the faith. Sometimes that push comes in the form of a challenge from someone. There is an entire branch of theology called “apologetics” that deals with this call to defend the faith. Literally, the word “apology” means “to give an explanation.”

In today’s second reading, St. Peter urges us to be ready to give such an “explanation” for the “reason for your hope.” In today’s homily I consider the two-step process that St. Peter outlines for this type of evangelization. First, we must sanctify Christ in our hearts, and only then will be ready to go out to make this “reasoned explanation.”

Whenever we attempt to share the faith, we must always remember that it is primarily Jesus himself that we are trying to share. It is important that we learn the answer to some basic arguments so we can give the “reason for our hope.” But we must always do this mindful of the fact that trading Bible verses and catechism citations is not the goal. There’s more to it then simply winning an argument.

In the end, the Holy Spirit, the “advocate” as he is called in today’s gospel, is working behind the scenes. He’s like your attorney, a technical meaning of the word “advocate.” He will take your language and translate it into a message the can be received by the heart of the other person.

So let’s be ready to give an explanation for the reason for our hope. Let’s do our homework so as not to keep passing by opportunities. But when you go out to share, don’t forget to do it with love and don’t forget to ask your advocate for help.

Homily 357 – Show Us the Father – 5th Sunday of Easter

May 14th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Coat of ArmsIn today’s Gospel, St. Philip the Apostle gets his moment to shine. When he gets the chance to ask Jesus for the thing he most wants, he says that he wants to see God. “Show us the father,” he requests. What a great thing to have as your deepest desire. How many of us would say that the thing we want most is to see God?

Despite this seemingly great request, Jesus has to kind of correct Philip and tell him that his question isn’t really as perfect as it could be. This requires a lot of humility on Philip’s part. He didn’t quite ask for exactly the right thing, but this was still pleasing to God. We don’t have to be afraid to ask for what we think we want. Just trust that God can see our good intentions and answer with what we really need.

Jesus says that if you want to see the father, look at him. If you see Jesus, you see the father. But then, how can we who live 2000 years after his ascension see Jesus? In today’s homily I consider two ways. First, through the visible presence of the church on earth, built of “living stones.” Secondly, in the Eucharist where we are truly face to face with Jesus.

So if your deepest desire is to see God, then you need to see Jesus. And if you want to see Jesus, you need the Church and especially the Eucharist. Let’s stir up our desire for this greatest good and then be grateful for the means that God has chosen to use to make himself present in our world.

Homily 356 – The Church Has the Voice of the Shepherd – 4th Sunday of Easter

May 7th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Good ShepherdJesus is the good shepherd. When he left this earth, he desired that we his sheep would still be able to hear his voice. Actually, to be compared to sheep is not so flattering. Sheep are not very smart and are prone to getting lost and hurt on their own. We definitely need to hear the shepherd’s voice. This is why Jesus us left us his Church. He left us shepherds and he uses their voice to be his voice. For 2000 years, the Catholic Church has faithfully handed on everything Jesus asked his first appointed shepherds to do.

Today, we desperately need to learn to hear this voice. There are many voices of “strangers” that we are all too eager to listen to. Jesus continues to speak clearly through the voice of the Church. We hear him in the teaching authority exercised by the successors of Peter and the apostles. We also hear him in the powerful and merciful words of the sacraments. So don’t be embarrassed to be a sheep. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that we are like sheep, provided that we know the voice of our good shepherd and will follow him wherever he leads.

Homily 355 – Back Without a Vengeance – Divine Mercy Sunday

April 23rd, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Wounds of JesusJesus is back! What great news. We all naturally accept the resurrection as the best news the world has ever known, but would it have automatically been this way for the apostles? No doubt there was joy that Jesus was alive; the gospel today tells us so. But I wonder if there wouldn’t have also been some doubt. After all, Jesus is back, but the last time the apostles were with him, well, things went badly. Other than John, everyone fell asleep, failed to pray, and ultimately ran away. Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus. Think about that. Peter’s last words to Jesus before he died were screaming “I don’t know him!” and cursing as he ran away. What would have been going through Peter’s mind as he saw Jesus for the first time after the resurrection?

Whatever doubt or fear the apostles had was quickly put to rest as Jesus appears and immediately says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus has not come back with a vengeance to condemn the apostles. He doesn’t yell at them or even bring up the events of Thursday night and Friday. He simply says, “Peace be with you.” Now the apostles could rest in the joy of the resurrection without the cloud of doubt. Notice this, however… the wounds of the crucifixion are still there. Why?

Jesus has a glorified body. It’s perfect. So why is there not a complete healing of the wounds? The only reason they are still there is because Jesus deliberately chose to have his wounds visible on his glorified body. I think this is a key insight into how Jesus sees woundedness. He doesn’t try to hide the wounds. He doesn’t pretend like Good Friday never happened. All those terrible things really did happen. Yet, and here’s the key, Easter is more powerful. As bad as Friday was, Easter Sunday is even more powerful. It takes the wounds and overpowers them, turning them into signs of love and not shame. Jesus can do the same with our wounds.

Are you wounded? Sure. We all are. The good news is not that Jesus is going to magically take away our wounds but, rather, that he is going to overpower them with his grace. Our wounds are part of our story, but he’s going to take the Friday and transform it so much through Sunday that we will actually end up calling it “Good” Friday. So don’t be afraid of your wounds. You don’t have to hid in a locked room of shame and weakness. Jesus knows your whole life and all you wounds. He offers you the gift as Divine Mercy as he bursts through your locked doors and says to you today as he said to the apostles, “Peace be with you.”

Homily 354 – You Are Witnesses – Easter Sunday

April 16th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Easter“You know what has happened!” So Peter tells us in the first reading. Jesus has been raised from the dead. We’ve heard the reports. Peter and John both saw the empty tomb. We’re told that John “saw and believed.” So we’ve heard reports, the tomb is empty, and people have reported seeing Jesus alive. This is powerful stuff! Yet churches are not full on this Easter Sunday morning simply because of reports from 2000 years ago, or because there’s an empty tomb in Jerusalem. Each of us has, to some extent personally experienced the power of Jesus risen from the dead.

There is real power in the resurrection. It’s a power that caused the apostles and countless disciples after them to lay down their lives in testimony that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. They are witnesses. But the scriptures also tell us today that WE are witnesses. How can this be? We have not seen the risen Lord like the apostles. Yet we can see what John saw. We can see the empty tomb and, like John, we can see and believe. We can believe because the witnesses are credible, but we can also believe because in a way each of us has seen the lord. We’ve experienced not just a story, but the real tangible power of Jesus in our lives.

Over one hundred thousand people became Catholic last night around the world. That’s a witness to power. They are willing to change their lives for the truth of this message. What about the rest of us? We too are witnesses. In fact we are the greatest witnesses there are. If we go out today and proclaim Jesus risen and that our lives must be different, we witness. But we also witness if we go out and do nothing, if we don’t even come back next week. That too witensses and says that really nothing happened here. The truth is, you ARE witnesses. But what kind of witness will you be?

Homily 353 – More Than Stories – Easter Vigil

April 15th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Easter FireTonight we read the stories of how God has orchestrated this elaborate plan of salvation. Beginning with the creation of the world and the great covenants of the Old Testament, we see God’s providence at work. But these are not just stories. The same power that was at work from beginning is at work now. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in all of us today. The message of the resurrection is the most powerful story ever told, and it’s all real. Tonight we gather in the dark of Easter night because we want to be in touch with that power. We symbolize this power in fire, and water. Most especially, we see the power of the resurrection tangibly present in those who tonight choose to be Catholic and receive the Easter sacraments. They are a powerful witness. May the new light of Easter put all of us in touch once again with the power at the source of our faith, something much greater than mere stories, the truth of Jesus come back from the dead.

Homily 352 – Preparation Day – Good Friday

April 14th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Passover LambThe Gospel of John tells us that Jesus was crucified on the “Preparation Day” for the Passover. Since no work could be done on the Sabbath, Friday was always a preparation day in which everything would be made ready. The year Jesus died, the Passover fell on the Sabbath, Saturday, and thus the preparation day that week also meant preparation for the Passover beginning Friday evening. One of the primary activities of preparation was the slaughter of the lambs in the temple that would serve as the Passover lambs for the evening’s meal.

The scriptures tell us that the Passover lamb had to be “without blemish” and that “none of it’s bone are to broken.” The lambs to be sacrificed would therefore first need to be inspected to make sure they were in fact without blemish. It is no coincidence that exactly at the moment that the priests were performing this function in the temple, we hear Pilate in today’s gospel declare multiple times, “I find no fault in this man.” Jesus is indeed without blemish. Then, at 3:00 in the afternoon, at exactly the hour when the lambs were being sacrificed in the temple, Jesus, the Lamb of God, dies on the cross. Further fulfilling the requirements of the paschal lamb, the legs of Jesus are not broken as is done with the two criminals with him.

All this is to show us that, as we discussed last night, Jesus is the fulfillment of what the Passover was always meant to be about. God spent a lot of time teaching his people that a sacrificial lamb is necessary where there is sin. Jesus is not just any lamb and his Passover is not just any Passover. We read today that “all this took place so that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” What an amazing plan God has worked for us. Today we marvel at the price of our salvation. Today the angel of death has passed over us, because the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world.

Homily 351 – Why is This Night Different – Holy Thursday

April 13th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

PassoverIn the Jewish ritual of Passover, a boy asks the father leading the meal a famous question, “Why is this night different from every other night?” The father is to reply with the story of the first Passover… “Because on this night God saved our ancestor from slavery in Egypt…” The angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites whose doors had been marked with the blood of the Passover lamb. Tonight, we celebrate the ultimate fulfillment of what the Passover was always preparing for. Tonight we are marked and saved by the blood of a lamb, but not the blood of an earthly lamb that has no real power to save. Rather, we are saved by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is the Passover of the Lord.

Homily 350 – Holy Week in Half an Hour – Palm Sunday

April 9th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Palm SundayToday’s liturgy seems to move so quickly. We move from our joyful entrance with shouts of Hosanna to Jesus been crucified and dead in the tomb all in just about half an hour. It seem much too fast to take in such important events. And indeed it is too fast. The events described in today’s liturgy really took place over the course of the entire upcoming week. We are meant to see today as a kind of “preview” for the deeper unpacking we will experience in the course of this week. Today’s homily gives an overview of what to expect from the liturgies of Holy Week. Most especially, we must be ready to celebrate the holiest three days of the year. These three days are so holy that we simply call them “The Three Days..” in Latin, Triduum.

Homily 349 – Human and Divine – 5th Sunday of Lent

April 2nd, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lazarus

“For as true man he wept for Lazarus his friend, and as eternal God raised him from the tomb.”
– from the Mass of the 5th Sunday of Lent

One of the great questions that has occupied theologians throughout history has been how to maintain the truth that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Many great heresies have their origin in emphasizing one of the two natures in Jesus to the detriment of the other. Today’s gospel gives us a view of each of these aspects of Jesus at their maximum. On the one hand, we see Jesus crying at the death of his friend Lazarus, “the one he loves.” We see him become “perturbed and deeply troubled” to see his friends Martha and Mary so upset. This is the human side of Jesus on full display… and this is good. If Jesus can get emotional, surely we can too.

What makes the human emotion of Jesus so interesting in the gospel is that the death of Lazarus is also the occasion for perhaps the greatest display of his divinity. Jesus weeps that Lazarus is dead, yet he knows that he will be alive again in just a few minutes. Jesus had worked many miracles already, but even his closest friends, who had faith in him and believed, couldn’t see what was coming. Jesus had raised two other people from the dead, but never someone dead for four days in a tomb. Everyone just knew that four days was too long, even for Jesus. There was no hope.

Jesus uses this occasion to take the faith that they already had and to expand it. He does something completely unexpected. The same power that allowed God in the beginning to say to the darkness, “Let there be light,” and there was, now says to a corpse in a dark cave, “Come out,” and he does. This Jesus who weeps human tears at the death of his friend is also the God of the universe who conquers death and gives life. As we journey through these last two weeks of Lent, perhaps we too are experiencing some human suffering or doubt. Fine… bring that to Jesus; he understands. But then allow Jesus, the lord of life, to surprise you. He will hear your prayers. He just might seem to wait two days and then do the impossible.