Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 126 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: October 31st, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Priesthood Sunday

This Sunday the Church gives us a day to celebrate priesthood. It also happens that All Saints Day is tomorrow. As we look at the history of the priesthood we are thankful for all the great saints that God has called to this ministry and the many ordinary priests that have impacted our lives.

When we look at the beginning of the New Testament priesthood, we of course look at the apostles. If one were going to pick the perfect group of people to lead a new church, one can hardly imagine picking this group. One would expect to find Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes. Certainly if one were looking for someone perfect, the Blessed Mother would have been the ideal priest. Instead we find this imperfect and sinful bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and even traitors. What was Jesus thinking?

Perhaps his was thinking that he wanted it to be perfectly clear that the Church will not achieve its mission and be successful because of the superb and perfect leadership of its priests. No, the Church is what it is today solely because of Jesus Christ, the one perfect high priest. Priesthood Sunday is necessarily a celebration of the priesthood of Jesus.

As we look beyond the apostles, we find quite a diverse group of saints who were priests. We’ve got great intellectual powerhouses like St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine. We’ve got humble confessors like the Cure of Ars and heroic martyrs like St. Maximilian Kolbe. Yet, probably the priests that are most special to us are the ones we have known, the ones that have touched our lives.

Today we are grateful for all those priest who have been there to help us when we’re down, to share our joys, to provide wise counsel, and to provide the sacraments. Priests have always been just your average sinners that God chooses to do something miraculous. Pray for them today. Pray for more of them. Most of all, be thankful today for the gift of the priesthood.

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

We need them in life’s early morning,
We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek it while tasting life’s woes.

When we come to this world we are sinful,
The greatest as well as the least.
And the hands that make us pure as angels
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

At the altar each day we behold them,
And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness
Their dignity stands alone.

For there in the stillness of morning
Ere the sun has emerged from the east,
There God rests between the pure fingers
Of the beautiful hands of a priest.

When we are tempted and wander
To pathways of shame and sin
‘Tis the hand of a priest that absolve us.
Not once but again and again.

And when we are taking life’s partner
Other hands may prepare us a feast
But the hands that will bless and unite us,
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy,
For the Host which their fingers caress,
What can a poor sinner do better
Than to ask Him who chose them to bless

When the death dews on our lids are falling,
May our courage and strength be increased
By seeing raised o’er us in blessing
The beautiful hands of a priest.

Homily 125 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: October 24th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Fight, The Race, and the Faith

In today’s second reading, St. Paul writes to his beloved disciple Timothy and offers a sort of farewell address. In summing up his life, St. Paul beautifully states that he has “fought the good fight,” “run the race,” and “kept the faith.”

St. Paul reminds us that this life is not all about peace and contentment. It’s a fight, a battle. We’ve got to fight and fight hard and it will at times be tough. Today we often make the mistake of thinking that if there is conflict that something has gone wrong. St. Paul promises that there will indeed be conflict. St. Paul did not die at peace with all men; he had real enemies…and so will we. The point is not avoid having enemies, but to make sure that we have the right enemies.

Related to fighting the good fight, St. Paul urges us to run the race to the finish. Life can be long and monotonous like a marathon. We might be tempted to get tied and stop running, to give up. We’ve got to keep running, to get past “the wall” and catch our second wind.

Finally, St. Paul tells us that he kept the faith. As he is near his death he has no possesions. He doesn’t even have his freedom. Objectively speaking it would appear that he has nothing to “leave behind” to Timothy. Yet, despite this, St. Paul does have one treasured possesion that he has faithfully kept. He has kept the faith. This is what he leaves to Timothy and it is what has been left to us. The faith is our great inheritence. We pray that when we die, we can also be proud to have passed on the faith to our children, that we can say with St. Paul that we too have fought the good fight, run the race, and kept the faith.

Homily 124 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: October 17th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A God of Opportunities

Sometimes it seems as though God does not hear our prayers. We pray and pray about things that are really important but there seems to be no answer, or at least not the answer we want. We might be tempted to grow weary and quit praying. We might even get mad at God. This reminded me of the movie Evan Almighty from 2006. There is a great scene where Evan’s wife and “God” sit down to talk. Joan had prayed that God would bring the family closer together, but things don’t seem to be going well. “God” (Morgan Freeman) then has this wonderful line:

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is just such an opportunity. We’ve all marveled this past week at the minors who were rescued in Chile. Interviews have shown that the minors learned two very important things while they were trapped. They learned that they needed God most of all and, secondly, that they needed other people. One can hardly think of two more important things in life to realize. Yet, how many of us would have prayed that God trap us in a mine for two months for God to teach us this? This difficult situation actually turned into one of God’s “opportunities.”

We may not ever be stuck in a mine, but each of us needs to find time to learn the important things in life, like God and family. The next time you’re praying for something, don’t be surprised if God chooses to answer your prayer with one of his famous “opportunities.”

Homily 123 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: October 10th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Who Do You Have to Thank?

Today we read in our gospel about 10 lepers who are all healed by Jesus. However, only one returns to thank Jesus. We might look at this and think the the moral of the story is clear; 1 leper is thankful and 9 are ungrateful. Maybe there’s a deeper message. I would think that all 10 lepers were very thankful. The difference with the one that comes back is that he knows not only what he is thankful for, but he knows to whom he has to go to offer that thanks.

Like the lepers, we too have much for which we should be thankful. Likewise we need to realize the one to whom we owe our thanks. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. It is God that deserves our thanks and the Eucharist is the perfect place to offer that thanks.

A Baby Hippo Could Save Your Marriage

Posted: September 28th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A baby hippopotamus was born recently at the Topeka Zoo. While hippos may not be the most attractive of God’s creatures, you have to admit that this little guy is cute. His birth, however, created quite a stir at the zoo because his arrival was a complete surprise. The zoo had recently acquired a male hippo, Tucker, to accompany the already resident female hippo, Mara. On the surface it doesn’t seem so surprising that a new little baby hippo would result. However, this situation has a few twists and the facts may just save your marriage.

You see, the zoo keepers didn’t want Mara getting pregnant so they were giving her a high dose of a contraceptive grain. The comments of a zoo official caught my attention.

“They had noticed that Mara and Tucker were beginning to try and mate, so they wanted to make sure they were giving her the right amount of grain.”

That seems logical enough. If two hippos are going to mate and you don’t want a pregnancy you should make sure that the female is on the correct dose of contraception, right? The following comment throws the first one into a whole new light.

“[T]hey…upped the grain and Tucker seemed to not want to mate anymore so that was a good sign that it was working.”

Did you catch that? The fact that Tucker was interested in mating with Mara was a sign to the zoo keepers that something must be wrong with the contraception. They knew they had fixed the problem when Tucker lost interest in Mara. This reminded me of something that I had learned about contraception within human relationships a long time ago.

I was once at a conference with the famous Theology of the Body scholar Mary Shivanandan. She presented a scientific study on the use of contraception throughout the world and one particular stat has stuck with me to this day. She presented the findings of a study that showed that couples who practice Natural Family Planning have sex way more often than couples who use contraception. I assumed this had to with the greater relational communication that is required of couples using NFP as well as just the more authentic love that is expressed among these couples.

Fast forward a few years and I was at another conference listening to the equally famous Janet Smith talking on contraception. She presented a study done with monkeys in which a male monkey was placed in an environment with multiple female monkeys. When the females were given contraception, the male monkey lost all interest in the females, began engaging in sexual acts by himself and then eventually with other male monkeys. A farmer pointed out that anyone who works with animals knows that “when a cow is in heat the bull will practically rip down the fence to get to her.”

These two conferences came back to me when I read the story of the new baby hippo. Zoo keepers are smart enough to know that males are attracted to females that are fertile, but not to females that are infertile. This is part of God’s design. When is a female infertile for an extended period? When she’s pregnant. That’s how contraception works. It tricks the woman’s body into thinking she’s pregnant…for a long time. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the zoo keepers misjudged the hippos. When Tucker lost interest in Mara they thought it was because they had gotten the contraception right. The truth was that Mara was not experiencing the “fake” pregnancy of contraception but was actually pregnant. The symptoms are the same.

Think today about how many people use contraception because they want to have sex more often and whenever they want. They think that NFP would mean less sex, less often. The studies above and the new hippo show why this is completely backward. We tend to think that we know everything about how our bodies work and that we are in control. The truth is that things are way more complicated than we realize, especially when it comes to attraction among men and women. Even the sense of smell plays an important role. Contraception messes up God’s design in ways we don’t even understand. We should, however, be smart enough to learn a lesson from some hippos.

Zoo keepers knew the contraception was inadequate when Tucker wanted to mate with Mara and they knew that it was working properly when Tucker lost interest. Women, does it seem that your husband has lost interest in you or that your love life just doesn’t have the excitement that it should? It may be surprising, but some hippos may just save your marriage.

Homily 122 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 26th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Life is Messy

This weekend all of the Boy Scouts in the Kansas City area got together to have a campout celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts. It was wet and muddy and I had Mass in the middle of it. It was the kind of campout that brings out the true scouts amongst the mere wimps. You see, scouts aren’t afraid to get dirty. Any normal person would be happy to sleep inside on a nice soft bed and wake up to TV and a microwave for breakfast. Scouts are not such people. We like it hard. The harder the better. Scouts like a challenge because it brings out the best in us.

Our Gospel reading today speaks of a man who was afraid to get dirty. He sat around in purple garments eating off fine linen and probably never had a challenge in his life. Meanwhile a beggar named Lazarus was literally right at his door. To the rich man Lazarus was dirty and inconvenient.

Do we sometimes miss Lazarus right at our door because we don’t want to “get dirty?” Are we too stuck in our “comfort zone” to accept the challenge to go out of our way to help someone? Today’s Gospel is a warning to us. Let us listen to Moses and the prophets. Let’s not be afraid of the challenge of loving our brothers and sisters in need, and let’s not be afraid to get a little dirty if that’s what it takes.

Homily 121 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 19th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

That All May be Saved

The 2nd reading today gives us two very important statements. On the one hand, St. Paul tells us that God wishes “that all men be saved.” On the other hand, we are told that “there is one God and one mediator…Jesus Christ.” In a society filled with all kinds of religious beliefs, these statements might seem to be at odds. If there is no salvation apart from Jesus, how can “all men be saved” without Jesus?

First, we have to realize that not all will be saved. It is true that Jesus died for everyone, but not all will accept him. We can sometimes think of our Catholic faith as no more than “one road among many” all leading to the same place, namely heaven. This is actually a heresy known as “indifferentism.” This heresy teaches that it doesn’t really make a difference what religious faith you practice so long as you do it faithfully. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our Catholic faith is special. Jesus Christ died for our sins because we really needed to be saved that we might go to heaven. Jesus died that he might give us the Church, his bride. He wanted us to have the Eucharist, the Sacraments, and the fullness of the faith. To say that it doesn’t matter whether you’re Catholic or not is to say that Jesus died for us, but it wasn’t necessary and doesn’t really matter because everyone goes to heaven anyway. It’s easy to see why this is a heresy.

But what about all the non-Catholics? The Church teaches that everyone who goes to heaven only does so because of the death of Jesus. However, not everyone really knows Jesus. This is why we have to evangelize. Thus, the Church also teaches that those who “through no fault of their own” do not know Jesus or his Church can also be saved. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but it is possible.

We should in fact rejoice to be Catholic and want everyone to share in the fullness of the truth. However, the sad reality is that we as Catholics often take our faith for granted. Many Protestants do a whole lot better with what they’ve got. Many Catholics are  going to be surprised to see how many good Muslims, Jews, Protestants, and others are in heaven. God does indeed will that all might be saved. Let us resolve to do our best to make sure that we’re in that number when the saints go marching in.

Homily 120 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 12th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

How Bad Is It?

There is a classic scene in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in which King Arthur encounters “The Black Knight.” King Arthur duels with the Black Knight and cuts off his arm, and then his other arm, and then both legs, all the while the Black Knight is minimizing the extent of the damage and continuing to taunt King Arthur. The scene is comical precisely because the Black Knight refuses to admit how bad things really are. While this scene is fictional and funny, the tragic truth is that we see something similar in our own lives.

Think of all the ways in which we are wounded, particularly by sin. We have mortal wounds clinging to our souls. Yet, how often are we like the Black Knight, pretending that things really aren’t all that bad? We’re like the sheep that wanders away from the flock and then, even when the shepherd comes to rescue us, we refuse to go.

The prodigal son in the gospel is our great example. Unlike the Black Knight, the son realizes just how bad things are. He knows that he has sinned, that he is far away from home and that he needs help. This is the most important moment in his life. It is in this moment that he begins to head back home. When he nears his father’s house, the son encounters his father running out to meet him with great joy. This same welcome awaits all of us when we turn back to our Father. So let’s admit today that everything is not “OK.” Let’s get to confession and find our loving Father welcoming us home to the banquet, the banquet of the Eucharist.

Homily 119 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 5th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Cost of Discipleship

Jesus gives us several hard sayings in today’s gospel that make it sound pretty tough to be a disciple. “Hate your father and mother…take up your cross…renounce all your possessions.” In the middle of these sayings he gives us two parables. If you build a tower, you need to make sure you have enough resources. If you go into battle you need to know if you have the strength. Jesus asks us today if we have what it takes to be a disciple.

The truth is that it’s not easy to be a disciple of Jesus. We like to think that everyone goes to heaven and that we can kind of just go with the flow and be alright. Jesus has something else in mind. Every athlete knows that if you want to win that you’ve got to work hard. There are no trophies given out just for showing up. Shouldn’t we expect that the prize of eternal salvation would require at least the amount of effort we put into an athletic competition?

The good news is that we don’t do this all by ourselves. We do have the resources to finish; we do have the strength to fight because Jesus fights with us. Let us resolve to do our part and not treat our faith as cheap. Let us fight hard to win the heavenly crown.  It’s worth the cost.

The Flying Priest

Posted: August 27th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Since I got my pilot’s license a little over a year ago I have been flying down to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS about once a month. On the third Thursday of every month they have a special morning program called Coffee at the Cosmo that includes a lecture and sometimes an exhibition of rarely seen artifacts. This past week the Hutchinson News came out to interview me and did a very nice story as well as a video. The Associated Press picked up the article and it ran in newspapers across the country. Now when I go out in Topeka people stop me and say “Hey, you’re that flying priest!” The original article is here and the video is embedded below or linked here. Thanks to Kristen for a great article and a chance to make a little “commercial” for God.