Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



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


“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.

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.