Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 368 – Lent Is About Baptism – 1st Sunday of Lent

February 18th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

BaptismWhen we think of Lent, we normally think of giving things up and fasting. While these are an important part of Lent, they are only really means to an end. You see the entire origin of the season of Lent is all about baptism.

In the early church, as adult converts presented themselves for baptism, it was obvious that they needed a period of preparation. Thus the period called the catechumenate was born. One might spend several years as a catechumen, but the preparation culminated in 40 days of intense preparation leading up to Easter and baptism. It didn’t take long before even those who had already been baptized realized that it would be helpful for everyone to prepare for Easter this way.

Baptism is the most important moment in our lives. It is then that we are saved, as St. Peter makes clear in today’s second reading. 40 days from now, on Easter, the priest will stand up and ask you to “renew the promises you made in holy baptism.” Will you be ready? Do you even know what those are? Well, the good news is that you’ve got some time to get ready… and that’s what Lent is all about.

Homily 367 – Those Three Little Words – Ash Wednesday

February 14th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Ash HeartThis year, Valentine’s Day happens to coincide with Ash Wednesday and beginning of the penitential season of Lent. For most Catholics, this meant transferring the more festive celebration of the patron saint of “love” to yesterday or another day. It doesn’t seem very fun to celebrate Valentine’s Day with fasting and ashes. But there is a way in which I think today’s confluence of feasts is still cause for reflection.

Valentine’s Day is typically a day on which many people will make extra effort to say those three little words to someone special, “I love you.” Yet, as we begin the season of Lent, I think it’s even more important to remember three other little words that are necessary for any healthy relationship, “I am sorry.” In fact, if you really want to say “I love you” and mean it, then you have to spend maybe many more times saying “I am sorry.”

Today, we recognize that God has said the biggest “I love you” he possible could. He came in person and died for us so that we could be with him forever. Sadly, we don’t tell God we love him enough and we often turn away. So, as we celebrate a day named after a martyr who gave his life for love of Christ, we remember to say “I love you” to God, and that means we need to start by saying “I am sorry.” Happy Ash Valentine’s Day.

Homily 366 – The Will to be Clean – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 11th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Jesus Touches a LeperAt the time of Jesus, leprosy carried a two-fold stigma. First, it was a terribly painful and debilitating disease which left the person suffering with sores and rotting flesh. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the second affliction of leprosy was that the person would be cast out of society and have to live apart as we see described in our first reading. The leper would have to yell out “unclean” if anyone came near him.

This background makes the encounter between Jesus and the leper in today’s gospel a truly astounding event. First, the leper does not stay away like he’s supposed to. He’s not afraid to run up to Jesus. More amazing, Jesus is not afraid of the leper. We can imagine everyone else backing away in shock, perhaps even fearing that they might become infected. Jesus then does the unthinkable; he touches the leper. In this case, since Jesus is God, he does not become infected with leprosy. Instead, the infected person is healed. A true miracle.

As we prepare to begin Lent, we are meant to see the disease of leprosy as an analogy for sin. Just as leprosy left a person physically ill, so sin leaves us spiritually ill. Leprosy isolated a person from the community and sin does the same to us. Notice that Jesus did not simply invite the leper back… he healed him first. This is the same path forward for us. We need to run to Jesus and kneel down in the confessional and be healed of our sin. Then Jesus will reintegrate us fully back into the community.

Sin is a serious disease. If we leave it untreated, we will not only spiritually suffer and die, but we will infect the entire community and slowly bring it down. But imagine if we were all to run to Jesus in confession this Lent. The whole community could be cured of our spiritual leprosy and we could lift each other up. If you have the courage to approach Jesus in the sacrament this Lent, then you too can hear the beautiful words of Jesus, spoken through the priest, “I absolve you from your sins. Be made clean.”

Homily 365 – Weak Enough to Lead – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 4th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

WeakToday’s homily was given to the archdiocesan candidates for the diaconate at the conclusion of their weekend of formation.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us about the need to preach the gospel. Yet, in today’s world, “preaching” has almost taken on a negative connotation. “Don’t preach at me!” In this sense, the listener seems to understand the one preaching as coming from a position of superiority. This is the opposite of what St. Paul intended by preaching. Rather, he makes the striking statement, “To the weak, I became weak.” To be a good evangelist, to be a good Christian, we must recognize that we are not superior, but weak.

Acknowledging weakness is especially important for those who would be leaders of God’s people. The deacon in particular should be in touch with the every day cares and worries of the people he serves. His ministry “in the world” makes the deacon especially fit to bring the needs of God’s people before the assembly at Mass. This is seen in the leading of the Universal Prayer, or “intercessions,” as well as in the handing over of the bread and wine to the priest.

Whether we are called to a special ministry of leadership in the Church or not, we are all called by virtue of our baptism to be evangelists, to be preachers of the Word. Don’t worry if you’re not perfect or feel weak; these are not disqualifiers for Jesus… these are prerequisites. Unlike a corporation that might fire a leader that isn’t strong enough, Jesus chooses the weak to reach out to others who are weak. Just look at the apostles.

So get out there and preach your story; preach from your weakness. Peach about what Jesus has done for you in your weakness. As St. Paul himself reminds us, it is when we are weak that we are strong.

Homily 364 – Teaching with Authority – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 28th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Jesus TeachingIn today’s gospel, Jesus gets up to teach in the synagogue and we are told that the people were “astonished” at what they heard. They say that Jesus teaches “with authority,” unlike the scribes. What is this authority? At the time of Jesus, it was common for rabbis to teach by first quoting the Scripture and then quoting the opinions of some other respected rabbis. Jesus doesn’t do this. This word for authority in the original Greek is exousia, meaning “from one’s being.” Jesus doesn’t repeat mere opinions of others when he teaches. He teaches in his own name and from his very being.

While we are not God and cannot teach with that kind of authority, we are in fact called to teach. When we teach, we must use the prophetic gift given us in baptism. We can’t merely recite simple Bible texts or Catechism passages. Rather, we too much share our faith “from our being.” It’s got to be our living belief, not words from a book.

When we do this, like happened with Jesus, we should expect opposition from the Evil One. Jesus is confronted by an unclean spirit claiming, “I know who you are!” The devil uses the same tactic with us. As soon as we try to go out and spread the good news, Satan and others with try to shut us up by claiming to know who we are, that we are terrible sinners that don’t live up to our own teaching. Don’t let this stop you. Expect the opposition. Tell the spirit to be “quiet” like Jesus did and then bravely go forward, teaching with your authority as one redeemed and saved by Jesus. A quick prayer to St. Michael might not hurt either.

Pondering a Pendulum Provides Perception of God’s Providence

January 27th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This video could be a homily. I love how everything starts out ordered and initially has a sort of understandable pattern. But there comes a point when you are sure that the order has fallen apart and there is only unintelligible random swinging. Except it’s not random. It just takes a bit. Things become intelligible again. All the balls line up and you realize that this was always going to happen even though you couldn’t see it at times. It’s really a nice demonstration of God’s providence in our lives.

Sometimes things may look like disordered chaos, but just hang on. It takes a bit. As surely as the laws of physics dictated that the balls would all have to come back together again, so too the law of God’s love and care for us means that God will bring good out of what looks bad in our lives. Chaos will become ordered. In fact, it turns out that what looked random, with balls going every which way, wasn’t really random at all. It was always ordered. So too with God. It might take until the end of time to get everything back together again, but when you see your life and all of time from the vantage of eternity, you’ll see how nothing in your life was really random. It was always ordered, ordered by God for your good.

Now watch the video again. When you know that the balls have not actually lost their order, you don’t give up. I notice myself looking for and even expecting new subtle patterns to emerge. Is that a new wave forming? Yes! Here it comes! Imagine if we saw our lives that way. If we know that there is order, an unseen law driving everything, then instead of giving up, we are almost excited to look for what new patterns might emerge. So if your life has fallen into what looks like disorder, don’t despair; look for the subtle patterns of God’s love emerging. It’s not random. It just takes a bit.

Homily 363 – Time for a Call – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 21st, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Fishers of MenThe word “vocation” comes the Latin word vocare, meaning “to call.” A vocation is a calling. When we hear the word vocation in the Church, we often think of religious vocations, such as being a priest or consecrated person. Yet we are all called by God. Have you heard God calling lately?

In today’s homily I consider three key aspects of a call from God and what it might mean for each of our lives.

  • First, God tends to call us from right where we’re at. You shouldn’t expect some “special” time when you think you would be “ready” for God’s call. He’s like to find you in the middle of your normal life, like how he called the apostles while fishing.
  • Second, although Jesus might call you from where you’re at, he’s likely to want you to change some things. The word “repent” that we hear in the readings is rendered in the Greek as metanoeite, literally meaning, “Change your mind.” God wants to offer you a new path in life that starts with a change, repentance.
  • Finally, the call of God has a time limit. God was very specific in the first reading; Nineveh had 40 days to change their minds. All of us are limited by the finite length of our lives. Yet, when we recognize a call from God, the time to answer is now. The apostles left their nets and followed right away. What’s holding you back?

In the first reading, Jonah seems to respond immediately to God’s call. The truth is that the reading left out the first part of the story where Jonah runs away from God’s call. God famously has to send a big fish to transport Jonah to where he was supposed to go. So, on the one hand, don’t worry if you don’t answer God’s call perfectly… but don’t make him send a big fish to eat you either.

Homily 362 – Pax Vobiscum – Epiphany

January 7th, 2018, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

MagiPeace be with you! Or, as we would say in Latin, Pax vobiscum! Pax is the Latin word for peace. On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, the word pax also points out to us three key lessons. The mysterious “Magi” in today’s gospel famously follow a star to find Jesus. We may not have a star to follow today to help us find Jesus, but we do have the example of the Magi. Here are the three things from the three kings that can help us, conveniently brought to you by the letters p, a, and x.

P – Pay attention. The Magi saw a sign in the sky that most others missed. They were paying attention. What are you paying attention to? God is sending you signs all the time. Do you notice?

A – Act. The Magi not only saw the sign but were willing to act on what they saw. They went on a long difficult journey to find Jesus. Do you act on the the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your life? How do you respond when God tries to push you a little beyond your comfort zone?

X – Exchange (I know; just go with it). The Gospel says that, after meeting Jesus, the Magi returned to their country “by another way.” They exchange their old way for a new way. They are willing to lay down their treasures. What are you willing to give God? Are you willing to give up your plans, your way, and exchange them for the new way God has in mind?

If we follow the example of the Magi, we too will be called to a great adventure. We will never be the same. Like the Magi we will find Jesus and we will have p-a-x, peace.

The Road Ahead

December 24th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A Rainbow for Fr. ShawnThank you all for the prayers and cards over the past month following my surgery. I am blessed to be able to report that everything went very well. The doctors believe they removed the entire tumor and the levels of the hormone it was excreting dropped to normal the day after the surgery. The pituitary gland is very small but very complicated, so it will be another couple weeks before we know if levels of other hormones will now also improve. I am hopeful and continue to appreciate your prayers.

That’s the good news. The sad news is that I will not be returning to my parishes in Osawatomie, Mound City, and La Cygne. Archbishop Naumann has asked me to assist Divine Mercy parish in Gardner, where their pastor is on a leave of absence, and also St. Michael’s parish in Leawood where a priest is leaving. I will be living at St. Michael’s but helping with weekend Masses in Gardner, beginning in January.

As Catholics, we all know that priests can be moved at any time and our faith is in Jesus, not our priest. However, being a pastor means much more to me than simply a job; it means being a father. Rather than changing “job sites,” this feels like I’m leaving part of my family behind. In many ways, brain surgery has been easier.

Other priests tell me that the first place where you are pastor will always have a special place in your heart. I am sure that will be true for me as well. Over this last year and a half, I have been so blessed by the warmth and support of my parishioners. I have witnessed the great love of family, and even learned a thing or two about cows and soy beans. More importantly, I’ve been inspired by the incredible love of Jesus and the Catholic spirit that exists in these parishes. We may be small, but God is truly doing great things. I know this will continue long after I’m gone.

The picture above is a favorite of mine. It was taken right after my first Mass in Mound City. I came out of the church to greet people and everyone was looking up at the sky and pointing at a big rainbow that seemed to land right on top of the rectory. I had some fears in the beginning about how a “city boy” would be accepted into “country” life. This rainbow seemed to be a sign from God that I was where I was supposed to be. Now he wants me somewhere else, so I will go, and trust that there will be other rainbows.

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for us.

Prayers for Surgery

November 17th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Endonasal Pituitary Tumor SurgeryOn Tuesday, November 21st, I will undergo surgery to remove a tumor on the pituitary gland in my head. I first became aware of this tumor four years ago when I was in a car accident. Use of medication since that time has prevented the tumor from growing, but it has not shrunk. More significantly, the tumor continues to mess with hormone levels, metabolism, and a host of other complications. The pituitary gland is sometimes referred to as the “master gland” because of all the things is controls.

Over the past year, side effects from the tumor and medication have created enough problems that my doctors and I recently decided that it would be best to have surgery to remove the tumor. The neurosurgeons involved say they perform this surgery at the rate of about one per week and it’s very common. The pituitary gland is on the bottom of the brain, so they are able to access it through a scope inserted through the nose without the need to open the skull. So, if there is such a thing as a “simple” brain surgery, I guess this is it.

The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the University of Kansas Hospital in the brand new building known as the Cambridge Tower. I am told that I will be in ICU overnight on Tuesday and then moved to the floor for “a couple days” while they “make sure there is no spinal fluid leaking from my brain.” So, I hope to go home perhaps the evening of Thanksgiving.

I am hopeful that this surgery will help eliminate some of the problems I’ve been experiencing and allow me to get back to being a “normal” priest very soon. I appreciate all your prayers.

N.B. I told them if they see a bunch of Latin in there to be sure to leave that part alone; I need that :-).