Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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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.

Homily 345 – From the Fall, through Redemption, to Glory – 1st Sunday of Lent

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

Temptation of ChristFor the beginning of Lent, the Church takes us back in today’s first reading to “The Beginning” as we hear from the Book of Genesis. We remember the sad turn of events that took the beauty of God’s creation from being “very good” to just a short time later having everything ruined in what described today simply as “The Fall.”

It’s important as we begin our Lenten fight against sin to recall how it was that sin entered the world. We read of how Satan tempted Adam and Eve so that we might once again remind ourselves of his tactics. The way he got our first parents to surrender their trust in God and choose a lesser good is the same way he comes after us today.

In the gospel, we see how Jesus, the new Adam, is victorious where the first Adam failed. This gives us great hope that we too can be victorious. St. Paul reminds us that just as the sin of the first Adam brought death to the whole world, so the obedience of Christ, the new Adam, offers us the gift of life for the whole world.

So as we begin this Lenten time of testing, let’s learn from Adam and Eve, let’s pay attention to the example of Jesus. If we do this well, we know that we end up transformed at Easter just like Jesus. This forty-day journey we have entered upon is really the journey of the entire Christian life, a journey from the fall, through redemption, to glory.

Homily 344 – Praise God for Creation – 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Native AmerciansIn today’s Gospel Jesus asks his disciples to pay attention to what they see in creation. “Look at the birds in the sky,” he says. “Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.” There are so many beautiful things that God has created. If we are paying attention, they can help us to see how much God loves and cares for us. But are we paying attention?

I have always greatly admired the Native American people and their love and care for creation. They pay attention the land, sky, and animals. Do we take the time to stop and notice the beauty in creation? We spend a lot of our time in front of computer screens and looking at our cell phones. But did you notice the sunrise this morning, or the animals running about and eating? We can all probably recall a moment when something beautiful caught our attention. In God’s amazing love for us, he not only created this entire world for us, but he then gave us the great gift of being able to appreciated it. Of all the animals God created, only humans are able to fully appreciate beauty and to take delight in it.

As we experience the beauty of everything God has made, our response should be one of thanksgiving. The Native Americans are so good about seeing creation as a gift from the Great Spirit. It’s not property to be used and carelessly thrown away. It’s a gift. Consider how the tribes that traditionally lived in Kansas were able to use all parts of the buffalo and waste nothing. Like them, we must be good stewards of the gifts God has given. Because creation is a gift and we are thankful, we must take good care of our “common home” as Pope Francis refers to this planet.

So today, let’s learn from our native brothers and sisters to pay attention to creation, to delight in it, to recognize it as a gift, and to be good stewards. The overwhelming feeling in our hearts should be one of gratitude and praise. We should be able to pray like St. Francis, Laudato Si… Praise to You, Lord!

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 know 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 there 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?”