Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 343 – World Marriage Day – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 12th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

World Marriage DayPeople often wonder what a celibate priest could know about marriage. On the surface, it seems like a fair question. But when you really think about it, a priest has experienced hundreds of marriages in the course of his ministry. He’s been there through good times and bad times and all stages of married life. People are often very open with their priest about marriage.

On this World Marriage Day, rather than give some simple “tips” from things I’ve learned, I thought I would go a bit deeper. My prayer lately has led me to contemplate the motivations that lead us to marriage and that sustain a happy marriage. Two key “drives” or “needs” stick out to me:

To know and be known – To know another person intimately and known that you are known. This is more than just familiarity that comes with time. This is knowing a person on the level of their soul. This requires real intimacy. It requires being vulnerable to share your entire life.

To be desired by the one you desire – Sometimes desire and passion can have a negative connotation. But God created us with this desire for marriage and union. It’s not bad. It’s holy, in the right context. Marriage is a beautiful context to fully live out our passion. This is seen in the desire that Adam had for Eve in his beautiful words upon seeing her for the first time, “At last!”

Notice that each of these desires is reciprocal. It’s when the other person knows you, desires you, in the same way you do that it is truly magic and wonderful. Marriage is such a beautiful way to experience the fulfillment of these two drives. But here’s the thing, as good as marriage is, no human being will ever be able to completely fulfill those two needs. God put them there to lead us to himself. Marriage is a very immediate way to experience a foreshadowing of what it will be like in heaven when God perfectly fulfills us. Those who are not married, especially those who choose the witness of a celibate vocation, but also single people and widows and widowers, point us to heaven.

May all married couples rejoice today in the privilege to image God’s love through their marriage. Never take your spouse for granted! And may all us, through the longing put their by God, desire heaven more each day and point others there with the example of our lives.

Homily 342 – Light in the Darkness – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 5th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

LighthouseAs a Boy Scout of 30 years now, I readily admit that I love camping. One of the things I most enjoy is seeing all the stars at night. When you get away from the city lights you can see so many more stars. Sometimes you need darkness in order to see the light. There’s a lot of spiritual as well as astronomical truth behind that. God will sometimes allow us to go through some darkness, but when we let our spiritual eyes adjust, we will be able to see and appreciate the light in a way we hadn’t before.

In today’s readings we are called not just to see light, but to be light… the light of the world! That’s a big challenge. People are often afraid to go out and be light. We all know that as soon as we hold ourselves out to let our light shine, someone will shine a light back at us. Knowing our own brokenness, we shy away from the light. We’d rather keep things hidden.

In the first reading today, Isaiah tells us that when we let our light shine, “Your wound will quickly be healed.” Allowing Jesus, the divine physician to shine his light on our wound and bring it out in the open allows us to be healed. We shouldn’t hide our brokenness or need for help. Bring it to the light.

In the gospel, Jesus uses the image of a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. This means that everyone knows right where it’s at, including enemies. If safety were the main concern, then the safest place for a city would be underground. Hide the entrance and let no one know where you are. But as Christians, we were not made for safety and hiding. We need to shine and not be afraid of the exposure of the mountain top. We’re not alone. We’re protected by a wall. Holy Mother Church and all our Christian community protects us.

So let the light into your darkness. Don’t hide under a basket. Jesus needs you shining up on the mountain top. So let your light shine, and do not be afraid!

Homily 341 – You Hypocrite – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 29th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

HypocriteHave you ever had the experience of standing up for some true but difficult teaching of Jesus, only to have someone call you a hypocrite because of your own failures? This is a common tactic of society and our enemy the Devil. Yet, to be a hypocrite means that you say one thing and don’t really believe it. You’re not a hypocrite to say that something is true and that we ought to do and yet come up short in living it out. This is the every day experience of the Christian life. We know what we should do, but we fail to do it. This doesn’t make us hypocrites; it makes us sinners and in need of saving.

This is what St. Paul in telling the Corinthians today. Do you feel insignificant and weak when it comes to living the faith? Good… that’s the kind of stuff God can work with. It’s the weak that know they need saving. So don’t get down about your weaknesses, and certainly don’t stop proclaiming the truth just because you fail. The work of your sanctification belongs to Jesus. Therefore, humbly admit your weakness and boast not in yourself, but boast in God.

Keep reminding yourself, “I’m not what I want to be… but I’m not what I was.” God’s grace is at work on your weaknesses. He will use your weaknesses to bring others to himself. After all, who would want to be Christian if you had to be perfect? No one could do it. As Pope Francis reminds us, the Church is a field hospital for sinners. Are you a miserable sinner whose life is in need of saving? Great… go find someone else like that and bring them along with you to meet the Savior. As the beatitudes remind us, it’s the poor and meek, the weak ones, who end up blessed.

So the next time you get called a hypocrite for standing up for the faith, remind yourself that you’re not. You’re not what you want to be, but you’re not what you were. And if you get insulted and persecuted and called names, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Homily 340 – Passion for the Christ – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 22nd, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

ProtestIn today’s second reading, St. Paul is dealing with a particularly troubling problem in Corinth. The members of the Church have broken down into factions and are choosing sides. Sound familiar? After all the political factions and fighting we’ve seen over the last year, perhaps we might wonder if it has to be this way. Looking at the reading, we see that the Corinthians had actually broken down into fighting over who was the more important apostle. It sounds almost silly, but we see how easy it is for us to break into groups and try to find someone to fight against.

There is something that we need to be fighting for, and that is for the salvation of our souls. The devil loves to divert attention from the real battle and instead have us fight trivial battles of no lasting consequence. Might I suggest that maybe it’s time for a little break from politics? When you find yourself getting all worked up over something, ask yourself how consequential this really is for your eternal salvation. Does it really require your attention and effort. The truth is, we are called to be passionate. Just make sure that you’re passionate about something that is worthy.

Homily 339 – What’s on Your Calendar? – Epiphany

January 8th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

January 1stToday we celebrate the Epiphany, or “manifestation,” of Jesus. Represented symbolically by the arrival of the gentile magi, Jesus is now made known to all the world. A tradition on this day of manifestation is to make manifest the date of Easter for the upcoming year. While we don’t have the same need of this today as they did in the days before calendars, there is an important theological point that remains true today. First, Easter goes on the calendar first. It is the most important day. Following Easter, we can then figure out the dates of many of the other feasts of the year, like Ash Wednesday and Pentecost. So many feasts move around each year depending on when Easter falls.

There’s a credit card company that asks in their advertisements, “What’s in your wallet?” Today, the more important question for us is, “What’s on your calendar?” You probably got a new calendar for the new year. So, what goes on it first? What’s the most important thing? And after that, what other things are you willing to move around to make the most important things happen? If you want to know what is really important to a person, look at how they spend their time. What are they willing to invest in? If someone looked at your calendar, what would seem to be most important? What priority does will God have in this new year? If you’re wondering what is the most important thing in your life, a good start might be to just ask, “What’s on your calendar?”

Homily 338 – Lots to Celebrate – New Year’s Day

January 1st, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

MaryToday’s celebration is actually the confluence of several events. On the secular side, it’s New Year’s Day, a chance to flip the calendar and start over. In the Church, today is the “Octave of Christmas,” the eigth day after Christmas. This marks the end of an intense celebration as though every day were Christmas for the past eight days. With it being eight days since the birth of Jesus, every good Jew would know that today also marks the day of the circumcision of Jesus and the day that he was officially given his name. Today is also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and even a day of prayer for world peace.

Today’s homily looks briefly at each of these events that we celebrate today. With so much going on, what better example could we have than Mary who, we are told, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” I pray that each of you will find some quiet time to do the same. Happy New Year!

Homily 337 – The Joy of Scrooge – Christmas

December 25th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Scrooge“Marley was dead: to being with… There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

With these famous lines from the beginning of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens goes to great pain to repeat and make clear that a man is dead. The reason for his insistence will become clear in just a few pages when this same man, who was “as dead as a door-nail,” appears seemingly alive again and talking with Scrooge in his bedroom. A wonder indeed!

After the story of Christmas related in St. Luke’s gospel tonight, perhaps the second best known story of Christmas in English is the story of “A Christmas Carol.” Just the name Scrooge brings to mind one of the greatest Christmas villains of all time. In a spiritual sense, we could say that Scrooge too was “dead… as dead as a door-nail” or at least close. Yet, at the heart of this timeless story is conversion, redemption and mercy. As we celebrate Christmas this year in the Jubilee of Mercy, I see three key lessons from the story of Scrooge that can benefit all of us.

1 ) Scrooge was bad and he didn’t hide it. He didn’t try to fake it, pretending to be a good person. He hated Christmas and everyone knew it. Like Marley who was repeatedly said to be dead…before he was alive again…we have to acknowledge where we are dead. We have to acknowledge how bad things really are in certain areas. Recognizing our fallenness and need for mercy is the critical first step, “or nothing wonderful can come of the story” God is going to work in our lives. Scrooge was not so good and, in many ways, neither are we. That is the truth.

2) Scrooge couldn’t save himself. In fact, he didn’t really even know how bad his life had become. This is why Marley was sent to him in the first place, to warn him. In addition to the ghost of Marley, Scrooge is visited by three “spirits” who use the past, present, and future, to help heal him. This is a beautiful example of God’s mercy. Scrooge couldn’t do it on his own and neither can we. Providentially, we too have guardian angel spirits and saints in heaven to intercede and help us. We need to call for help and beg God to visit us with his mercy precisely because we can’t save ourselves.

3) The future can be better than the past or the present. Scrooge finally realizes what his selfishness has done not only to all those around him, but to himself as well. When he has this amazing conversion, his most earnest wish is that his future can be different. This is the greatest gift of God’s mercy: It doesn’t matter what has been our past or what sins presently afflict us. Scrooge is given a new beginning. “Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!” God gives us this same chance each day.

It was said of Scrooge that “he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” Because Scrooge started so bad, his transformation is all the more amazing. The same is possible for all of us. Maybe we’re not as bad as Scrooge, but we don’t want anything to hold us back from the true joy of Christmas. The days before us are our own. Let’s begin with a thankful heart just as was given to Scrooge and “may God bless us, everyone.”

Homily 336 – God Is With Us – 4th Sunday of Advent

December 18th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

God With UsHow can it be that so many people were not able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah when he came? This is one of the great mysteries of God’s plan of salvation. He spent thousands of years preparing his chosen people to be ready for the coming of the Messiah. Yet, when at last he came, many people missed it. Jesus was not the type of Messiah they were looking for. They expected someone who would come and overthrow the Romans and reestablish a new king on the thrown of David. In short, they expected the Messiah to come and “fix” everything.

Today’s readings give us a special title that more appropriately describes the Messiah; he is to be “Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” Jesus didn’t come to “fix” everything. He didn’t come to take away all the pain and suffering in the world. Rather than take it away or fix it, instead he said, “I am with you.” The great hope we have now is not that the world will be perfect or that our lives will be perfect. Rather, we have the sure knowledge that we don’t go through this alone. God is with us.

One of the most important things to us then as Christians is to know the presence of God in our lives. Especially when things seem to be going wrong and we need help, we need to call out for God. We can even ask for a sign, like we see promised in our first reading. God always answers our prayers, even if the answer isn’t what we were expecting. God may not fix our problems, but we can have peace and joy nonetheless, because we know that God is with us.

Homily 335 – Top Tips for Confession – 3rd Sunday of Advent

December 11th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

No AxesMost people know that being Catholic means that we have a serious obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. However, even Catholics who are great about getting to Mass sometimes have trouble getting to confession regularly. There could be any number of reasons for this, and today’s homily is designed to tackle some of the potential obstacles that might get in the way of receiving God’s mercy in this challenging but beautiful Sacrament of Penance.

In the past, we’ve talked about about this sacrament more from the theological standpoint. Today’s homily is very practical. You might call it, “Fr. Shawn’s Top Tips for Confession.” They are not in any particular order, but they range from seemingly obvious advice like, “Confess your sins and not some else’s,” all the way down to avoiding the “Sandwich Method” and even taking a tour of the confessional… you know where it is, right?

There should be something here for everyone this week, even if you’re an ax murderer. So, don’t miss the opportunity to get to confession before Christmas, and check out these top tips before you go.

Homily 334 – Two Trees – 2nd Sunday of Advent

December 4th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Jesse TreeWhen we think of Christmas, we normally think of Christmas trees. However, our readings today give us two other trees to think about. In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we are introduced to the “stump of Jesse.” Not much of a tree! Yet this stump, and the future it holds, are a sign of great hope. You have to understand a little bit of Jewish history to understand just how bad things were and how much the Messiah was needed. Today’s homily gives a little introduction into this history. You may not end up singing “O Christmas Stump” by the end, but this stump might be just the hope you need right now.

In our gospel today, we meet St. John the Baptist (Yea! The hero of Advent!) and he introduces us to yet another tree. This tree, however, is in danger of being cut down, with an ax laid at it’s root. This tree is meant to represent us. It’s not enough simply to be Catholic and think that we’ve got it made. God can raise up Catholics from stones! Rather, we must bear good fruit, fruit that befits the repentance required to greet the Messiah with a clear conscience. Jesus has baptized us with the Holy Spirit and fire. We have to get going and bear real fruit. Otherwise, our tree is in danger of being reduced to a stump at the Lord’s coming.

Today’s homily focuses on the lesson of these two trees. One is a tree of hope, the other a tree of warning and urgency. Both trees are important for us this Advent if we want to celebrate around a Christmas tree in a few weeks.