Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 288 – Listen to Him – 2nd Sunday of Lent

Posted: March 1st, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

AbrahamHopefully, before we make a big decision we listen to advice from others. Even the Code of Canon Law requires Church officials to listen before they do certain things. But who do we listen to? The Church has traditionally given us three enemies to whom we should not listen: the world the flesh and the devil. What we should do is to follow the directions of God the Father in today’s gospel and listen to Jesus. Today’s homily considers Abraham as the model for listening to God and offers advice as to how we might become more like him.

 

Homily 287 – Let’s Fight – 1st Sunday of Lent

Posted: February 22nd, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Iwo Jima Flag RaisingGiven a choice between war and peace, we would naturally choose peace. Yet sometimes, to maintain peace, we have to fight. Imagine what would happen if we refused to take a worldly enemy seriously and refused to fight simply because we preferred peace. Soon we would have neither peace nor freedom. Sometimes we have to fight. The same is true in the spiritual life. We have a real enemy that is going to fight against us whether we like it or not. We cannot simply sit complacent on the sidelines.

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima. This fight is perhaps best known from the famous picture taken of the marines raising the American flag on the top of Mt. Suribachi. Here in Washington the picture has been made into a large sculpture which serves as the Marine Corp War Memorial. We all love to contemplate this great scene of final victory. Yet this victory came after great struggle and as the fruit of much training and discipline. Today’s homily speaks of how we can take a lesson from the marines to help each of us fight the good fight of Lent and plant our own flag of victory at Easter.

Homily 286 – Be Made Clean – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: February 15th, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The disease of leprosy, is the sad context for our readings this weekend. This terrible disease was not only a painful physical milady, but also had serious social implications. We see in the readings how lepers had to stay away from the community and yell “unclean” if anyone came near. By highlighting the issue of leprosy, the Church on this last Sunday before Lent gives us a meditation on the very real effects of sin. Sin, like leprosy, makes our souls and often our bodies unwell. Likewise, because there is no private sin, it also has a communal effect, isolating us from God and our brothers and sisters.

Like the leper, we are called to acknowledge our sin and then come humbly and kneel before Jesus the divine physician. Jesus makes the leper clean. Through the Sacrament of Penance Jesus wishes to make us clean of our sin. This is not some figurative healing; in the Sacrament of Penance we are truly made clean. Notice in the gospel that Jesus does not invite the leper back into the community right away. If Jesus had simply chosen to ignore the disease then the leper would still be a leper and soon the entire society would be sick. Rather, Jesus first cleanses the leper and then invites him back. This Lent, let’s have the humility and courage of the leper to get right with God and neighbor. We too are meant to hear the words of Jesus, “Be made clean.”

Stop Being Embarrassed About the Crusades

Posted: February 6th, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

EOHSJ InvestitureSeveral years ago I was invited to receive knighthood in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. This is an honor conferred by the Vatican and is a very big deal. However, I had a somewhat important reservation. The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of course have their origin from the Crusades. At the time I remember thinking, “Wait, weren’t the Crusades a bad thing? Aren’t we kind of embarrassed by the Crusades?” I decided I needed to do some learning about the Crusades, quickly.

In doing some internet searching I came across a book entitled “The New Concise History of the Crusades” by Thomas F. Madden. As providence would have it, Dr. Madden is the leading American expert on the Crusades. This was not a short book or a simple book, but I read it cover to cover. I’m so glad I did. Not only did Dr. Madden remove any doubts I had about accepting knighthood in the EOHSJ, but he actually made me proud of the Crusades and what our Catholics brothers and sisters had done almost a thousand years ago.

Yes, that’s right; not only should we not be ashamed of the Crusades, we should be very proud! If you don’t understand that yet, I urge you to do some research.

Recently at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama showed what happens when we speak from uninformed hearsay. In what must be the greatest factual error in the history of Crusade misinformation, he equated the defensive rescue mission of the Crusades with modern day Islamic terrorists who murder by the thousands those who refuse to convert to Islam. Making such a connection is grossly negligent; however, there is in fact a connection between the Crusades and modern Islamic jihad.

The Crusades were launched in response to the Islamic conquest of the day. Wealthy and comfortable Christians in Europe left their families and their fortunes, traveling hundreds of miles, to save their Christian brothers and sisters whom they had never met. Over a third of the Crusaders died and never returned home. If they did manage to to make it home, most were financially ruined, having spent their entire life’s fortune on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They did this not for land or glory, but for the physical salvation of their brothers and sisters and the spiritual salvation of their own souls.

It is true that some Crusaders did terribly sinful things. This happens in war. War is never good, but sometimes it is justified and even required of morally upright people. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” PeaceMAKERS: Peace doesn’t just happen; sometimes it has to be made. When Islamic terrorists began killing Christians, taking their homes, and desecrating the holy places a thousand years ago, Christians took up arms to stop the unjust aggression and to restore peace.

In the face of Islamic aggression a thousand years ago, the leader of the free world at the time, the Holy Father, formed a rescue mission while reminding the Crusaders, “Greater love has no man than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It was a noble, self-sacrificing, holy thing. In the face of far worse Islamic aggression today, the leader of the free world won’t even acknowledge that there is an unjust aggressor, told us not to “get on our high horse,” and then called our Christian ancestors terrorists.

I thought I would post some links to good articles about the Crusades, but happily I am finding that the internet is now filled with them today. Just do a search and you will find lots of helpful information. Crusade scholars have long bemoaned the fact that people are so uninformed and that there seemed to be no way to set things straight. In an amazing twist, President Obama’s comments might just be the spark that actually gets people to learn about the Crusades and stop being embarrassed.

Homily 285 – The Measure of Success – 3rd Sunday After Epiphany EF

Posted: January 25th, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

OldStJohnsDo you ever find yourself frustrated when trying to share your faith and the person you’re talking to just can’t seem to grasp it? You present evidence and testimony that, to you, seem irresistible. Sometimes even two people raised in the same house can wind up with one person firmly believing in Jesus and another indifferent. Why couldn’t Jesus have made his identity more obvious? He could have manifest himself in a way that no one would be able to miss. Why did he leave things so open to misunderstanding?

We find one perplexing example in today’s gospel. Jesus heals a leper, an event that surely would get people to believe in him. Yet, he tells the man to remain quiet and not tell anyone about the healing. What? If I were the messiah and my goal was to get everyone to accept me, then doing lots of public miracles seems to be a good place to start. Perhaps part of the answer is that Jesus continues the approach that, as God, he has used from the beginning of time. God does not impose himself on us in way we can’t refuse; rather he proposes. He gives us just enough and then allows for the free response of our will.

In this light, we can see why the centurion in today’s gospel is so impressive to Jesus. The Jews had been preparing for centuries for the coming of the messiah. Yet, when he came, many saw the signs he was doing and determined that he was possessed by a demon. The centurion heard about what Jesus was doing and made a conclusion not just about what Jesus could do (heal people), but about who Jesus is. He has authority. The centurion understood authority and Jesus has an authority that the centurion knows is far beyond this world. How can this gentile centurion “get it” when others miss it? What does he have that others don’t? Jesus gives us the answer…it’s faith.

There is something mysterious and supernatural about the response of the centurion. He understands not just things about Jesus, but intuits something deeper about who Jesus really is. As we go about trying to help people come to know Jesus, we should keep these stories in mind. It’s not about the crowds. Jesus sends crowds away. Crowds often misunderstand Jesus. We can present the truth about Jesus and people will reject it and not understand. But some, like the centurion, will respond with faith. While there is much practical work to be done in spreading the gospel, we can never lose sight of the fact that the primary work is on the level of grace. God is the primary worker. He is the one that ultimately proposes.

So as we go about sharing the good news, most especially don’t get discouraged with what seem to be the results. If we try to be “successful” in spreading the gospel we are doomed, as we always measure success on worldly terms. Mother Theresa offers what I think is the best advice. God calls us not to be successful, but to be faithful. So go out and make Jesus manifest; continue his epiphany. Perhaps not many will accept God’s proposal. No matter. Be faithful. Share your joy. God might just surprise you with a centurion when you least expect it.

Pope Francis Condemns Rabbit Heresy

Posted: January 20th, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

no_rabbitsYou see them everywhere these days. Families with twenty or thirty kids. You could swear that last week at Mass John and Mary had only a dozen or so kids, but now they’re back this week and there are at least twenty! It’s not hard to figure out what is going on here. Clearly these are Catholics who have fallen into the rampant heresy of Rabbitism. It’s not their fault mind you. Rabbitism has only managed to gain hold because Catholics today are so piously obedient to Holy Mother Church that they insist on having more and more children out of fear for their eternal souls. All over you see people who just want to be good Catholics having dozens and dozens of children believing that their eternal salvation depends upon it. And we all know how preoccupied people are with their eternal salvation these days. It seems people will do almost anything to avoid going to hell.

Just when it seemed that there was no hope of ending this foul confusion, Pope Francis has today used the sacred office of the papacy to solemnly condemn Rabbitism once and for all. The official pronouncement came at some 30,000 feet above sea level on a plane returning to Rome from Manila in some unprepared off the cuff remarks given to a handful of reporters. As those familiar with the Church know, this is the present code language indicating that the Pope is about to make an infallible statement. At last the blessed words came thus:

“Some think that, and excuse the word, in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No, responsible parenthood.” (see full article)

Darkness is thus dispelled by new light and consciences everywhere are now more at ease. Those outside the Church might question what the Holy Father means by “responsible parenthood.” However, because of the incredible job that priests have done teaching Humanae Vitae and St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body, all Catholics of course understand that “responsible parenthood” means avoiding all contraception, accepting children lovingly from God, and never allowing the selfish desire for material goods or status to tempt one to limit the size of one’s family.

So, faithful Catholics, you can in good conscience keep your families to a single dozen or so kids and need not fear for your salvation. Rabbitism is dead. Additionally, we can all be very grateful that the Holy Father has once again taken an often misunderstood issue and added such helpful clarity.

Homily 284 – What’s Your Story? – Epiphany

Posted: January 4th, 2015, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

ThreeKingsWe all love stories. Sometimes stories are meant simply to entertain us, but stories are also an important means to make sense out of our life. Stories help put our present situation in a larger context. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Messiah that had been promised in a story begun long ago. At Epiphany we see the three kings take their part in the story. In today’s homily, I focus not so much on the story of the kings but, rather, the story told by Isaiah that predicted their arrival centuries earlier.

In the first reading Isaiah is declaring that light is shining on Jerusalem and that the whole world is headed there with treasure. The problem with this is that it appeared not to be true at the time Isaiah spoke it. Jerusalem was a dump. The temple had been destroyed and God’s people were in exile in Babylon. In spite of this, Isaiah prophesies good news. He tells a story about the future, or the present really that they cannot see yet. He brings a message of hope and light to their present darkness.

Many times as a priest I have to do what Isaiah tries to do, to convince people in some present darkness that the light is just around the corner. The devil loves to have us believe the lie that our future is dim and that there is no hope. But this is a lie! How we feel about whatever present situation we are in depends very much on what story we choose to believe. At Christmas we celebrate that God loved us so much that he came in person to save us and will never leave us. Do you realize that’s the story you’re in?

The magi in the gospel today encounter Jesus and then, almost poetically, “return home by another route.” As we encounter Jesus today, what will we do? How we feel about where we’re at and where we’re going depends very much on what story we choose to believe we’re in.

Homily 283 – Light Enough to Lead – Christmas

Posted: December 25th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

ChristmasStarOne of the most cherished traditions of the Church year is celebrating Mass during the dark night of Christmas as we welcome the birth of the Light of the World. It is fitting the our Lord chose to be born at the darkest time of the year just as the light starts to grow brighter. There is much darkness in our world and in our lives. There is much from which we need to be saved. This is why the news of the angles is such good news, “A savior has been born!”

Yes, we have a savior that has come to shine light into our darkness. Yet, it is important to notice that the light that shines does not complete eliminate all darkness, nor does it show us everything of what our future holds. Rather than presenting himself as a bright irresistible light, Jesus comes under the light of a star, a sign so subtle that it was missed by even those most looking for it. Jesus will come at the end of time as the definitive king demanding obedience and placing all things under his rule. Yet, at that first Christmas he chose to come as a little baby, the most non-threatening way we can imagine.

Each day Jesus wants to come into our world. Are we afraid to let him in? Maybe we fear what he will ask or fear that we can’t live up to his expectations. Maybe we just selfishly want to be left alone to be lord of our own lives, even doubting that God really has our best interest at heart. Again the angel give us counsel, “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring tidings of great joy.” Jesus is asking us to accept him, to let him in. Do not be afraid to say yes to him! He is not going to present you with an irresistible offer, so don’t wait for one. Rather, right now he is shining his light on just the next step, light enough to lead. You needn’t worry about where the entire staircase leads, just following the light shining on the next step.

Saying yes to one little step at a time will lead you to the ultimate meaning of your life, to become a great saint. I’ve seen how this can work in my own family and God surely wants the same for you. Don’t be afraid to follow the subtle light of the star shining into your life. Like the three wise men, say yes and get ready for an amazing journey.

Homily 282 – Imitating St. Paul – 23rd Sunday After Pentecost EF

Posted: November 16th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

st-paulIn today’s epistle, St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Be imitators of me.” It’s a bold statement, yet one that is good advice not only for the Ephesians, but also for us.

In today’s homily I consider three ways that we might imitate St. Paul: Paul the Solider, Paul the Sinner, and Paul the Saint.

Here are some of the quotes I mention in the homily which I think help us to understand what motivated St. Paul and can help us to imitate him.

Soldier

Eph 6:11-13

Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.

Sinner

Rom 7:14

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

 2 Cor 12:7-9

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Saint

 Phil 3:4-14

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Can the Divorced and Remarried Really Receive Communion?

Posted: November 14th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

1987 photo of Pope John Paul II arriving in Miami for visit to United StatesEarlier today I posted a piece with the rather provocative headline “Pope Allows Communion for Divorced and Remarried.” Now, it was a bit of a risk, I know. The statement is absolutely true, but I was obviously hoping that most people would read the post and not just the headline. If I had it to do over, I might go with “Pope Outlines Process Allowing Communion for Divorced and Remarried.” It seemed a little long for a headline. Regardless, here’s a little explanation about the actual facts and why I wrote the post.

The facts:

  • If you follow the link in the article to the statement from the CDF secretary you will see that the official did, just as I said, reaffirm the teaching of the Church for over 30 years that the divorced and civilly remarried can in fact be admitted to communion under certain conditions. He then goes on to give the exact quote that I cited, outlining those conditions: either separate or refrain from marital relations since you are not married (living as “brother and sister”).
  • The key here is that the “Pope” or “Holy Father” mentioned throughout the post is of course St. John Paul II, not the current Pope. The quote given by the CDF secretary which I also quoted is taken from a document written by St. John Paul II in 1981 entitled Familiaris Consortio, just as I said in my post.
  • Also true is the fact that the document was written after a meeting of the synod of bishops on the family, but not the most recent one. The synod I was referring to did in fact end on October 25…1980.

The Message:

  • The Church has to face the reality that many people have abandoned their spouses, or been abandoned through no fault of their own, and have since attempted to invalidly enter a new marriage in a civil procedure. This is the reality. The question then is how to spiritually care for these people. What does God ask of them? Many of these people will even come to recognize the serious sins they committed that led to their present situation and want to repent and move forward in their relationship with God. There has got to be a way forward. God leaves no one in an impossible situation of sin with no way out.
  • The question then is what to do. In the days leading up to the most recent meeting of the synod of bishops, I was perplexed to hear many participants speaking as though this was the first time the Church ever considered how to minister to the divorced. The press was even amazed, with one reporter remarking, “I can’t believe the Church is actually talking about sex. This has never happened before.” The press love new things. To some extent we all love new things. I wrote my (perhaps too creative) post this morning to draw attention to an “old” thing that just might be the best thing.
  • When people are asking the Church to find a way forward so that the divorced and remarried can repent and receive communion, they don’t seem to be aware that such an arrangement already exists. I wondered how many people knew that we already had a synod on the family that discussed these same issues and came up with a concrete way forward. I believe that St. John Paul II and his teachings, especially on the Theology of the Body, are the key to solving our current crisis and wanted to raise some awareness of his teaching.

The Results:

  • Catholics who are “in the know” saw the quote and knew that this has been true for a long time and had this confirmed by the explicit reference to Familiaris Consortio.
  • As I suspected, many even faithful Catholics were not aware of the teaching of JPII allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion. One person who actually read the entire quote, and even understood it, called “Pope Francis” a heretic for allowing this “brother and sister” option. Maybe knowing it was from JPII would change her mind!
  • Some people were confused. I expected that. Some of those people sought clarification and learned about the Church’s teaching for the first time. I like that. For those that might still be confused, I hope they will ask someone, “Is it true that the Pope said there is way for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion?” The answer to this question is emphatically YES. Let’s make sure we can explain the process when people ask.

Finally, two important pastoral implications for a wider understanding of Familiaris Consortio:

  • I have on occasion encountered “older” couples in an invalid marriage who were not going to communion because they knew they were not validly married. The annulment process scared them and most of the witnesses were long gone which would have made an investigation into the validity of their marriage somewhat difficult. None of them had ever heard of the so-called “brother/sister” option presented by JPII. When asked if they were willing to live as brother and sister, often times the response was that they rarely if ever engaged in marital relations any more. There is nothing that prevents such a couple from being immediately reconciled to the Church and admitted to communion. How many pastors are aware of this?
  • I often tell people that if they suspect they have committed a serious sin they should not put off going to confession, advice I follow myself. Knock on my door at 3AM if you need to, but don’t stay in mortal sin! Assume the world will end today! When it comes to those living in invalid marriages, the Church says that are not able to receive communion because of the presumed repeated serious sin of adultery. How are they supposed to be OK with staying in this state indefinitely? I find it difficult as a pastor to simply leave people in this state. If it were any other sin I would be saying, “Do whatever it takes to get out of this state immediately.” If there are good reasons, such as children, that one cannot leave the new invalid marriage, then shouldn’t we be pushing the brother/sister option more? Do we as priests have an obligation to tell our people that this really is not just an option but the expected way they need to go? It might be difficult, but when we’re talking sex and mortal sin vs. continence, the Sacraments, and salvation…isn’t that a clear way forward?

At the very least, more people now know about this teaching. At present count several hundred people have clicked on the link to Familiaris Consortio in my post. That implies that they actually read the whole post, that they probably didn’t know what Familiaris Consortio was before, and now they do. Hopefully such positives outweigh any confusion. In the worst case, Pope Francis likes confusion and said to make a mess, so there you go.