Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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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.

Homily 348 – Miracles and Mystery – 4th Sunday of Lent

March 26th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

MiraclesIn today’s gospel Jesus works a great miracle. He gives sight to a man born blind. Yet when we read this story, it seems that the actual miracle only makes up a small part of the story and then the rest of the gospel focuses on a sort of trial that ensues to determine exactly what happened. It would be easy to get frustrated and yell at the Pharisees, “Why can’t you just accept that a miracle occurred and be thankful?” However, people might be surprised to learn that the Catholic Church is actually very skeptical in proclaiming something to be a “miracle.” We would likely do exactly what the Pharisees did.

Today’s homily looks at two miracles in addition to the one on the gospel. One was the miracle that eventually led to the canonization of Mother Theresa. The other happened just last year to a mom in Arizona. In both cases, there was a great deal of healthy skepticism and testing before accepting that there was no earthly explanation for these miraculous events.

While all of these miracles are potentially helpful for our faith, no miracle is enough to actually give us faith. No amount of evidence will be enough to make us believe. We still have a choice. When the man in the gospel who is given sight encounters Jesus, he is asked if he “believes.” St. John tells us he responded, “I do believe, Lord” and then “he worshiped him.”

We are confronted with evidence of God’s presence every day. Yet many people see this same evidence and do not come to faith. There is a mystery in the moment between seeing all the evidence and being able to proclaim that we believe and worship. So let’s be thankful today for the mysterious gift of our faith. Let’s also not miss the miracles that happen around us every day, especially the miracle of the Eucharist.

Homily 347 – What You’re Looking For – 3rd Sunday of Lent

March 19th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Woman with EnvelopeThis week, I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City to view a special exhibit of photography. The pictures displayed were all of people, but not your typical “smile for the camera” moments. These were candid shots mostly showing people looking rather empty and sad. There was no joy on the faces of these people, just frustration and a certain tiredness. The photographer, David Heath, took these pictures in the 1960’s in Washington Square, New York. As I looked at these pictures, I thought of the Samaritan woman in today’s gospel who came to draw water from the well. If David Heath had been there to take a picture, I bet she would have looked a lot like the people in the photos of the exhibit. She was tired of coming every day to the well. She was constantly thirsty, and not just for water.

But then something unexpected happens. Into this cycle of sadness comes Jesus. He offers to give the woman “living water” that will satisfy her thirst. This encounter with God changes everything for the woman. She forgets all about her previous troubles, leaving behind her water jar, and goes to share her new-found joy with others. I experienced something similar at the end of the exhibit at the Nelson. When one goes to an art museum, one expects to find “visual” art, like the photographs I saw. Yet, at the end of the David Heath exhibit, with all it’s sadness, I encountered something completely unexpected for an art museum.

As I neared the end of the photography exhibit, I began to hear music, beautiful music. In fact it was an “audio exhibit” unlike anything you would expect to find in an art museum. The creator recorded a forty-voice choir singing a beautiful piece of sacred music composed in the 1500’s. Each voice was projected from one of 40 speakers arranged in an oval. Visitors could stand in the middle and take it all in or walk around and hear the individual voices. The piece being performed was written by the famous composer Thomas Tallis, and was entitled Spem in alium. How amazing to follow a rather melancholy photo exhibit with a piece of music urging people to have hope (spem) in God.

Exiting the exhibit, people could leave comments about their experience. So many people wrote about how they experienced God in this music. I was surprised at the profound depth of experience people were expressing. Clearly these people were thirsty for this beauty, and ultimately thirsty for a message of hope. Like the woman at the well, we too are called to go out and find the thirsty people around us and bring them to the water. Many of us can relate to the experience of lead singer Bono of the band U2 who has tried to find happiness in many places and yet admits, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What do all these people have in common: the woman at the well, the people in the photos, the visitors to the audio exhibit at the museum… you and I? We’re all thirsty. We’re all looking to satisfy our thirst. Only Jesus can fully quench this thirst. When you encounter him, and accept his gift of living water, only then will you know that you’ve found what you’re looking for.

Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath

Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet

Thomas Tallis: Spem in Alium

U2 : I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

NeedToBreathe: Testify

Homily 346 – Mountaintop View – 2nd Sunday of Lent

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

Fr. Shawn at PhilmontI love the view from the top of a mountain. You can see everything so much more clearly. In today’s gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the top of Mount Tabor in Galilee so that they too could have a clearer view of things. However, Jesus wasn’t so much concerned about the beautiful view of the land, but giving them a clear view of his own person, of who he is. On top of the mountain, Jesus became “transfigured” before them, showing them a glimpse of his divinity. The experience is so amazing that Peter suggests that they just set up camp and stay. Yet life is not made for us to stay up on the mountain, at least not yet.

I believe that Jesus gave the apostles the amazing experience on Mount Tabor because he knew, in just a short while, there would be another mountain to climb, Mount Calvary. Jesus wanted to give the apostles a sure sign of his divinity on Mount Tabor so that, when they would later see him on the cross, they would not doubt. We all need such “mountaintop” experiences, when we see God clearly. We need those moments when God seems close and faith is easy. We will not always be on the mountain, but will sometimes be in a valley. Today, we thank God for the beautiful view on top of a mountain, but then we store this up for the journey ahead. One day, we will be forever at rest on the mountain. For now, we keep going, never forgetting the experience of the mountaintop view.