Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Following Jesus Through Galilee

Posted: June 13th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

From our vantage point on top of the Mount of Beatitudes we have a beautiful view of the entire Sea of Galilee. As I look out over the area it struck me that Jesus spent most of his public ministry right here in this relatively small area. While Jesus and the apostles walked many places, we also know that they went by boat as well. They were fishermen and obviously enjoyed the sea. To honor this maritime spirit of the apostles we began our day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Our little wooden boat took off from the spot where a museum has the remains of a 1st century fishing boat on display. I imagined us being out on the sea in much same way as the apostles.

1st Century Fishing Boat
1st Century Fishing Boat

While out on the sea we could get a better vantage point of all the cities that Jesus visited during his public ministry. We began from near Tabgah where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. We then passed the Church of the Primacy of Peter and then stopped to park ourselves opposite the Mount of the Beatitudes.

From the Sea of Galilee
From the Sea of Galilee 

While stopped, Mike gave us some great teaching on the public ministry of Jesus and helped to point out where all the cities were located. It was so nice to be able to put into perspective where Jesus would have walked and prayed. Basic things like how far it is between places became much more concrete. I especially enjoyed turning off the boat engine and just having some quiet time to pray and take it all in. Jesus would have no doubt taken time on the many boat rides with the apostles to teach them just the way we did.

Mount of Beatitudes from the Sea
Mount of Beatitudes from the Sea

The destination of our boat ride was the town in which Jesus made his home during his public ministry, the little town of Capernaum. St. Peter’s house was located in this town and it is likely that Jesus also made this his home in Capernaum. We had Mass right on the site where they lowered the paralytic through the roof into Peter’s house. The remains of the 4th century Byzantine church are clearly visible through the floor of the modern church.

Inside the Church of St. Peter
Inside the Church of St. Peter

The Mass that we celebrated today was in honor of the Most Holy Eucharist because it was here in Capernaum that Jesus gave his famous discourse on the Bread of Life detailed in John chapter 6. I read the Gospel at the Mass and I was very moved by the last line. “This teaching Jesus gave while in the synagogue at Capernaum.” Some of the best kept remains in all Israel are the remains of the synagogue in Capernaum which was clearly visible through the window of the church. As I read the last line of the Gospel I almost wanted to change the words and point out the window, “This teaching Jesus gave…right over there!” I resisted, but it was a great moment. I prayed for a great increase in faith in the Eucharist, that we would be believing and not reject this teaching as many apparently did on that day 2000 years ago.

The Synagogue
The Synagogue

We left Capernaum by bus, but I’ll never forget our beautiful boat ride. It’s easy to feel close to Jesus and the apostles traveling the same waters they did and hearing and smelling the same things. It also reminded me just how close together all these places are and what a small part of the world Jesus spent his life in. What a beautiful experience this morning.

Capernaum, The Home of Jesus
Capernaum, The Home of Jesus

We interrupt this pilgrimage day for lunch…

St. Peter's Fish - Before  St. Peter's Fish - After
St. Peter’s Fish – Before and…after 

After our afternoon rest and evening meal we headed back down to the sea for a very special event. One of the churches on the shore is known as the church of the Primacy of Peter. It is built on the spot where Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection and had breakfast with them. Most famously, it is here where Jesus reconciled Peter after his three denials, allowing him three times to say how much he loved Jesus. Just as Peter was reconciled to Jesus on this spot, so we took the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation here.

Church of the Primacy of Peter
Church of the Primacy of Peter 

I love to tell people about this spot because it was here that Peter got to hear personally from Jesus that he was forgiven. What if Peter never had this encounter with Jesus on the seashore? He might have gone the rest of his life embarrassed and doubting his relationship with Jesus. Instead, Jesus quickly heals him and prepares him to carry on his mission as “the Rock.” Confession is meant to do the same thing for us, to set us free from past guilt and fear and allow us to carry on our mission with new boldness and conviction. It was a moment in my priesthood tonight that I will never forget as I heard confessions right on this spot that I have so often talked about. Praise God for his beautiful mercy and the gift of the priesthood that allows us to hear his voice offering us his forgiveness.

Priests in Capernaum
Priests in Capernaum
Notice Father Tom Anxious to Grab the Power of the Keys from Peter

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A Day of Faithfulness

Posted: June 12th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus had the custom of rising early each morning to pray. Today I enjoyed rising early and going out to look over the sea of Galilee as I made my morning prayers. It’s amazing to realize that I’m looking at the very same sight that inspired the daily prayer of Jesus. If Jesus, who is God, needed routine regular prayer every day, imagine how much more important this daily prayer is to us!

Morning Prayer at the Sea of Galilee
Morning Prayer at the Sea of Galilee

After breakfast we boarded the buses and headed for Nazareth. On the way we stopped at the site of Jesus’ first miracle in Cana. It was here that Jesus was invited to a wedding along with Mary and the apostles. The main site in Cana is what is known as “The Wedding Church.” This special church marks the spot where Jesus changed the water into wine at that famous wedding 2000 years ago.

The Wedding Church at Cana
The Wedding Church at Cana

While at the Wedding Church I had the great blessing of helping many of the married couples with us renew their wedding vows. It was so beautiful to  see the faithfulness of these couples. Marriage and family is very much under attack in our culture and we need strong witnesses like this. Married couples are called to be a sacred sign to the world of the way that God loves us. It’s no surprise that such an important sacrament is under fire from the evil one. I pray that God may continue to bless all those called to the vocation of marriage. We prayed today especially for all those spouses at home that could not join on our pilgrimage.

Stone Water Jar Found at Cana
Stone Water Jar Found at Cana
Now That’s a Lot of Wine

Leaving Cana we finally arrived in Nazareth, the town where Jesus lived for the first 30 years of his life. In the first century, Nazareth contained only about 150-200 people. We saw the excavations of many of these first century homes, most nothing more than caves for protection. Two of these houses have great significance for us. The first was the home of St. Joseph and eventually the home of the Holy Family. Here we heard a beautiful reflection on the life of St. Jospeh given by Troy followed by Holy Mass. Just as in Bethlehem where every day is Christmas, we celebrated today the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the very place where event happened.

St. Joseph and Jesus
St. Joseph and Jesus

After celebrating the Mass of the Annunciation, we when to visit the Church of the Annunciation. This large modern church is built right over the site of Mary’s original house in Nazareth. Upon entering we were all drawn to the little cave in the crypt where our Blessed Mother grew up and had the amazing encounter with the angle Gabriel. I prayed the first mystery of the Rosary in surrounded by the very stones which first heard these words from the mouth of Gabriel.

Mary's House
Mary’s House 

In yet another incredible gift of providence, we arrived at Mary’s house just as the Angelus bells were ringing at noon. For those unfamiliar, the Angelus is a prayer that recalls the encounter between Mary and Gabriel. It is normally prayed three times a day at 6, noon, and 6. To pray the Angelus right in the place where it all happened was beyond description. The thing that most struck me was when we came to the verse that reminds us that because of Mary’s yes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We say this prayer three times a day, but it really happened right here. In this little cave God became man. I couldn’t help but notice the inscription under the altar which reads simply, “The Word became flesh HERE.” What an amazing site this little cave is.

The Word Became Flesh Here
The Word Became Flesh Here

After lunch in Nazareth we headed back home for some much needed rest. I must say that it is quite a bit different being here in the summer heat verses the winter coolness of my last trip. After dinner, Mike had an adventure in store for us. We hiked down the Mount of Beatitudes where we are staying to a special cave built into the side of the mountain where tradition indicates that Jesus spent his time alone praying. This is the view that Jesus would have seen (I think I could pray better with a view like this too!)

View from the Cave of Jesus
View from the Cave of Jesus

One nice thing about the weather is that it gets much cooler in the evening. It was a nice hike down to the cave followed by a visit to the seashore. We visited the site where a waterfall enters the Sea of Galilee. It was here that the apostles would wash their nets after fishing and is also the place where Jesus called the first apostles. I prayed that many more people would say yes to God’s call the way Mary, St. Joseph and the Apostles did. Today was an amazing witness to the power of saying yes and remaining faithfully committed. If today had a theme, I would call it a day of faithfulness.

The City of Tiberias
The City of Tiberias

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Note: Please notice that any of the pictures in my blog may be enlarged by clicking on them. Each post also contains a link at the bottom entitled “See More Pictures” that contains more of my pictures from the day hosted on a separate photo site. Be sure the check them out.

Down to the River to Pray

Posted: June 11th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This morning we left the little town of Bethlehem and headed down to the Jordan River to the site where John was baptizing. I must say that this was quite a highlight for me as this spot has only recently been opened to pilgrims. Since the Jordan River is also the international boundary between Jordan and the West Bank it is a very controlled military area. I was not allowed to go to this most special site 5 years ago. I felt very close to my patron at this site that is truly “in the wilderness.”

Shawn the Baptist at the Jordan River
Shawn the Baptist at the Jordan River 

While at the baptism site, we recalled how this was also the place where the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land. What an important boundary this little bit of water is. It marks the crossing from the wilderness to the land of promise as well as the crossing from death to life in baptism. Just as the Israelites had to renew their covenant with God after crossing the river, so we too renewed our baptismal promises. It was a very special moment that gave us all a new sense of purpose and commitment.

Renewal of Baptismal Promises
Fr. Brian Helps Us Renew Our Baptismal Promises
Note His Fancy Apergillium

Leaving the Jordan River we entered the oldest city in the world, Jericho. It has been continuously inhabited for at least 10,000 years. It is also the lowest city on earth by elevation. The main highlight of our visit here was to make the climb up to the Temptation Monastery. It is built right into the side of the cliff overlooking Jericho. It marks the spot where Jesus spent his 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil. It was very hot and we all certainly got our exercise. Even though you ride a cable car most of the way up, there are still 200 stairs to climb. While there, Mike reminded us that the key to overcoming temptation is to be committed to meditation. We cannot overcome temptation on our own, but by remaining in union with God, he will deliver us from the test.

Temptation Monastery Cable Car Up From Jericho Monastery Chapel
Mt. of the Temptation Monastery

Our final trek was north to the Galilee where will be spending the next three days. It was so wonderful to see the Sea of Galilee again. We are actually staying inside the walls at the Church of the Beatitudes on top of the mountain overlooking the sea. You might doubt the location of some places in the Holy Land, but there is no doubt that the Sea of Galilee is still right where it was 2000 years ago.

The Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee 

We ended our day by celebrating Mass outside the front of the church as it was much too warm inside. I got to give the homily and it just so happened that today’s Gospel from Mass was on the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. You can’t ask for a more obvious blessing of Divine Providence. It was wonderful to read and preach on these 9 keys to be blessed right in the place where Jesus spoke these words. We are truly blessed. We don’t have to wait for heaven to be blessed, but we are blessed right here and now, even if our circumstances might seem otherwise. I pray all of you at home enjoy a blessed day.

Our Mass at Church of the Beatitudes
Our Mass at the Church of the Beatitudes

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Starting at the Beginning

Posted: June 10th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Today was our first full day in the Holy Land and it has indeed been “full.” We began by traveling to the hill country of Judah, just as Mary did to visit her cousin Elizabeth. How appropriate that we as pilgrims begin at the same spot to which Mary went as a pilgrim 2000 years ago. Mary brought Jesus to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth and John the Baptist leaped for joy. I pray that Mary will also help us encounter Jesus over the next days.

 Church of the Visitation
Church of the Visitation

After visiting the Church of the Visitation which contains the well where Mary and Elizabeth met, we went across the street to the Birthplace of John the Baptist. I got the opportunity to lead a reflection on the life of this great saint. I focused particularly on the prayer of Zechariah and how we was able to place the birth of John in the perfect context of salvation history. I pray that the Holy Land will help us all to experience the great physical context in which the stories of the Bible take place. It is so important that we know our story.

Birthplace of John the Baptist
Birthplace of John the Baptist 

We then moved on to one of the highlights of any pilgrimage to the Holy Land; we visited the Church of the Nativity and reverenced the birthplace of Jesus. I was wonderful to be able to celebrate Mass in St. Catherine’s Church on the site and then to visit the cave where Jesus was born. For Mass we celebrated the Mass of Christmas as every day is Christmas here in Bethlehem. I was particularly moved by the places in the Missal where the texts had been slightly changed, often adding the word “HERE” in many places to emphasize that the events spoken of at that first Christmas are all true and they took place right “HERE.”

Birthplace of Jesus
Birthplace of Jesus 

After all the busyness of Manger Square and the rest of the city of Bethlehem, we headed slightly outside of town to one of my favorite places in Bethlehem, the Shepherd’s Fields. These are the same fields where the shepherds first received the news of our Savior’s birth. Unlike when I was here previously in the winter, today there were many sheep out in the fields. It was very peaceful and wonderful to imagine the multitude of angels that would have filled the sky one special night 2000 years ago.

The Shepherds' Fields
The Shepherds’ Fields 

As the star marking the place of the Savior’s birth reminds us, “Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ Was Born.” What a blessing to be present “here” for this special time. Tomorrow we’re off to Galilee.

Star Marking Birthplace of Jesus
Star Marking Birthplace of Jesus 

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Up to Jerusalem

Posted: June 9th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Welcome to Israel

We made it! The rest of the group arrived earlier and are waiting for us at the hotel in Bethlehem. We are currently on the bus from the airport going “Up to Jerusalem.” The Scriptures always speak of going “up” to Jerusalem because it is located on top of a mountain.

Bethlehem is only about 4 miles to the south of Jerusalem, so we are going “up” just as Jesus and the apostles did. Of course Jesus never had a nice air conditioned bus, but other than that we’re just like Jesus.

Now, we’re looking forward to dinner and some rest. Tomorrow we set out for the site of the Visitation. Thanks for all the prayers. Praise God, we are here.

15 Hours and 22 Minutes

Posted: June 9th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

New York

Here’s a happy picture of New York from the way in this afternoon. Unfortunately, it looks much darker now, but I’m still looking at New York. We’ve been having a maintenance issue with the plane and we’ve already fixed it once and then come back. It looks like we should go soon.

If someone told you the flight to the Holy Land was 15 hours instead of 10, people would still go. You could just look at this as 4 to 5 hours of the smoothest flight imaginable. No turbulence on the ground!

Tomorrow…make that “today”…in Jerusalem, er Bethlehem. You get it. Just pray. We know it will turn out for the best.

10 Hours and 22 Minutes

Posted: June 8th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

After a 5 hour layover in New York we are just about ready to get on the plane to Tel Aviv. We’re just 10 hours and 22 minutes away. You can follow our flight in real time at the link below. No blogging over the Atlantic…sorry. Tomorrow, in Jerusalem! (well, Bethlehem actually).

Flight Aware JFK to Tel Aviv

And We’re Off

Posted: June 8th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Goodbye KCI

Greetings pilgrims! We’re all pilgrims of course, but special greetings from 86 of us on our way to the Holy Land. It’s high noon and we’re currently 37,000 feet high on our way to New York. I will be your official blogger and electronic tour guide. I look forward to bringing everyone back home a little closer to the holy places and proving a bit of a journal to reminisce after our return home. My camera and iPad are at your service. Feel free to interact by leaving comments and letting me know if you have any questions or want pictures/video of anything in particular.

Here’s some live flight info for you:

Flight Info

Homily 213 – Holy Trinity

Posted: June 3rd, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Our God Is a Family

God is love. We hear that a lot, but somehow it seems like we need more than just that line. Augustine famously described the love of God as a communion of love that necessarily had to involve more than one person. Lover, beloved, and love are the titles he used. This can help us understand a bit more about the Trinity.

Blessed Pope John Paul II took the understanding of Augustine regarding the Trinity and applied especially to the family. Our God is not a solitary God, but rather a family of persons. We on earth are called to image this love in our families. This is why the Church takes marriage so seriously. Our families are a most precious gift by which can come to know a little bit more about the love of God, even if we do it imperfectly here due to sin. May God bless all families in the mission to be a reflection of the love of the Trinity.

Homily 212 – Pentecost

Posted: May 27th, 2012, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

What Drives You?

In today’s first reading, the Holy Spirit is described as a “strong driving wind.” We’re all familiar here in Kansas with just how powerful the wind can be. It can literally push you…or your house…over. On Pentecost, the Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit was a force like this. If we look at our lives, what drives us? Is it the Holy Spirit? Perhaps we’re driven by a lot of the things that St. Paul mentions in our second reading…immorality, lust and the like.

The Holy Spirit is also described as being fire. Fire can be destructive but also purifying. If we are driven more by the spirit of the world than the Holy Spirit, then maybe we could use a little purification from the Spirit. Renewing the face of the earth is a big task, but it starts on person at a time. Don’t be afraid to unlock the doors and let the Holy Spirit start driving.