Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 87 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

Posted: April 11th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This is Our Feast of Victory

Everyone loves a good story. Some stories are just made up (see my previous post on the Clash of the Titans movie). Today we celebrate a story that is not only true, but the greatest story ever told. As the sequence for Mass sings, “Death and life fought bitterly for this wondrous victory. The Lord of Life who died, reigns glorified.” As the popular Easter hymn sings, “This is the feast of victory for our God.” It is also our feast of victory.

We all need a chance to be victorious. Perhaps this is why we love sports so much. We like the feeling of winning. Just imagine if the Royals won the World Series this year (it’s April…we can still dream). It would be a victory all the sweeter because we in Kansas City know all about being down and out. As wonderful as it would be to have 1985 all over again, that victory would pale in comparison to the victory we celebrate today.

“Christ the lamb has saved the sheep.” No one has ever been more down and out than the human race since the fall of Adam and Eve. Yet, God has continuously mounted a rescue mission. As he used a lamb at Passover to save the Hebrews in Egypt, so today he uses the Lamb of God to save us from the bondage of sin and death. Jesus truly died and was buried and is now raised from the dead. This is the greatest comeback story in history!

Today is our day to be excited and cheer that we are victorious. It is also Divine Mercy Sunday which reminds us that our sins need not get in the way of sharing in this victory. When Jesus appears to the apostles in the Gospel he still bears the wounds of the crucifixion, the mark of what our sins have done. Yet he comes not with condemnation, but reassurance for his apostles. “Peace be with you,” he says. He says the same to us today. Our sins are lost in the ocean of his mercy and we sing the hymn of victory with the lamb.

“Christ the paschal lamb has been sacrificed, therefore let us keep the feast.” This is our day of victory, a day won for us by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad for the Lord is risen…indeed he is risen!

Clash of Theologies

Posted: April 9th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

I went with some priest friends recently to see the new Clash of the Titansmovie. I remember studying all this mythology in High School and did a bit of comparative religion study in seminary. However, seeing Zeus and Hades battle things out on the big screen was something new. As I enjoyed my “fork and screen” experience of all the technological wonder that Hollywood can provide, I had a profound realization….these Greek myths are stupid!

Perhaps this was just another pathetic example of the current lack of talent in anything besides special effects coming out of Hollywood. However, to be fair, this story was written before Hollywood. There’s something just silly about the whole story in the first place. One couldn’t help but see how ridiculous it would be to live in a world in which God(s) was somehow in competition with us. The men in the movie rebel against the gods by refusing to “nourish” them with their “prayers”. “The gods need us!” one rebel triumphantly shouts as he refuses to “pray.” It’s no wonder people think religion is for imbeciles

Does it really make any sense to think that the one true God who made the entire universe out of nothing would then be subservient and dependant on his own creation? God isn’t just the most powerful thing out there. He’s not the most powerful titan or head of some group of powers. He’s outside of and above all of this. Despite our attempts to treat God as though we could control him or even just avoid him, we know that this is ultimately impossible, and thank God for that.

In a strange sort of way, the film actually helped reinforce my faith. The Bible simply must be true, because if we tried to make up our own religious story we’d get something like Clash of the Titans.

Homily 86: Friday in the Octave of Easter

Posted: April 9th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

It’s Easter! Now What?

Now that Eater is finally here, you might be wondering…”now what?” It would be easy to go back to our normal routines. That’s what Peter appears to be doing in the gospel today. Not knowing exactly what to do with this news of resurrection, he decides to go back to fishing. For those of us born again in the new life of Easter, there really is no going back. May we have the love of St. John to recognize the Lord in our everyday life and may we have the zeal of St. Peter to jump into the sea when we find him. Nothing should separate us from the new life offered us by Jesus.

Help Wanted

Posted: April 7th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Can you read and write Italian? If so, please call the New York Times immediately and apply to be their new head of Italian research. Your skills are desperately needed to save the failing newspaper any further embarrassment (good luck with that).

It turns out that much of the false attacks against the Pope initiated by this newspaper were in fact not properly researched (I know…it’s shocking). Apparently they were in such a hurry to find some facts to back up the story they had written that they didn’t even have time to properly translate the key source for their story which happened to be in Italian. Seemingly lacking even one person on a staff of thousands who was fluent in Italian, they instead decided to use “Yahoo translator” to interpret.

Perhaps they also consulted Wikipedia as a source for this story. Thank goodness for journalists who can work to find all the hard facts we normal people could never figure out. Read the sad details below and then say a prayer for the Pope (and maybe think about that job at the NYT).

New York Times Story Based on Gross Translating Error

A Sure Sign of Success for Pope Benedict

Posted: April 6th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

When I lived in Lawrence I would often walk along a street where the people had a great devotion to political yard signs. In many of the races, I knew who to vote for…and it was not the people being endorsed on this street. Yet, whenever I had a question about a race, I would go to this street and see who’s names were in their yards. This way I could always figure out who not to vote for. If a person’s name was popular on this street, I could be just about 100% certain that the other candidate was the one I wanted.

I was reminded of this street when I read today the rather silly article that boldly claims that the papacy of Pope Benedict is now officially a failure. If the mainstream media are declaring the Pope to be a failure, I can be just about 100% certain that he is succeeding overwhelmingly. Let us pray for an end to the lies and calumny against the Holy Father, but let us also take courage that all the right people hate him.

I wonder if there is a possibility that a culture given over to all kinds of immorality would have an ulterior motive in trying to undermine the world’s only remaining moral authority. I’m just wondering.

Homily 85 – Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Posted: April 6th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Christ the Lamb Has Saved the Sheep

Easter Sunday and the 8 days that follow (the Octave of Easter) give us a rare treat of an additional chant for Mass. Right before the Alleluia we have the chanting of what is known as a sequence (See the Catholic Encyclopedia article for all the details). Of the four sequences that are still in use in the modern form of the Mass, none is more famous than the Easter sequence, Victimae Paschali Laudes.

Today at Mass I talked through some of my favorite Easter themes found in the sequence. Below is an English translation and the audio of the homily:

Christians, praise the paschal victim!
Offer thankful sacrifice!
Christ the Lamb has saved the sheep,
Christ the just one paid the price,
Reconciling sinners to the Father.
Death and life fought bitterly
For this wondrous victory;
The Lord of life who died reigns glorified!

O Mary, come and say
what you saw at break of day.
“The empty tomb of my living Lord!
I saw Christ Jesus risen and adored!
Bright angels testified,
Shroud and grave clothes side by side!
Yes, Christ my hope rose gloriously.
He goes before you into Galilee.”
Share the good news, sing joyfully:
His death is victory!
Lord Jesus Victor King, show us mercy.

Homily 84 – Good Friday

Posted: April 2nd, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Oberammergau Teaches Us to Hope in the Cross

It was the year 1632 and Central Europe was suffering through the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War which had left the people in poverty and disease. The bubonic plague was the silent stalker at the door of ever house. For the tiny village of Oberammergau in southern Germany deaths from the plague rose from 1 per month in October of 1632 to over 20 per month by March 1633.

Faced with the doom of their entire town, the faithful people gathered at the cemetery where so many of their family and friends lay buried in graves all too new. With great trust they came to implore the mercy of God for an end to the plague.

The fruit of their prayer was an inspiration that would make the little town of Oberammergau famous even to this day. In a desperate yet hopeful bargain, the people promised God that if the He saw fit to protect them from the menace of the plague that they would conduct a special passion play in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus to be repeated every 10 years for all time.

Truly these people had experienced a share in the Lord’s passion and it was to the passion of Christ that they looked with hope for deliverance. If the Father could give Jesus victory over death, surely he could help them.

Immediately following this fateful cemetery meeting and the precious vow entered upon therein, the deaths from the plague began to drop dramatically and finally came to a complete end. The people saw clearly the hand of God and the answer to their prayer. God had truly heard them and the people were overjoyed. They knew what they needed to do to express their thanks.

In 1634, these grateful people returned to the cemetery where they had first met in grief two years prior. This time, they met to give thanks. There, over the graves of those who had been taken all too soon by the plague they constructed a small stage and, with many of the townspeople taking part, they performed what they called “A Play of the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ”, the first of what would become known as the now famous Oberammergau passion play.

Perhaps a cemetery is not the place where we would expect so much drama. Yet, what place could be more fitting for entering into this ongoing cosmic battle of life and death. The people of Oberammergau came armed with a story, a story of the victory of the God of life over death.

Today we come to this church armed with the same story. The death of Jesus which we commemorate today causes us to gather in sadness, penance, remorse, and grief. Yet, we know that this same story is also the cause for our hope. Today the cross is our symbol of victory.

A Spiritual Guide to the Triduum Liturgy

Posted: April 1st, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Praying With the Rites of Holy Week

As the most holy Three Days of the year begin this evening, I offer the talk I gave last night to those preparing to become Catholic. The Triduum (Latin: three days) begins on the evening of Holy Thursday and ends on the evening of Easter Sunday. During this time we commemorate and experience again the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously the three days on which these events took place mark the most important days of all history, and the most important days of the liturgical year.

This talk was given to highlight some of the spiritual insights to be found in the ritual texts, music, and actions of these days. I hope that you will find this reflection helpful in your own living out of these most holy days. I wish you a Blessed Triduum.

Homily 83 – Palm Sunday

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

Who Would Do Such a Deed?

Today we celebrate both the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as well as his shameful crucifixion and apparent defeat. That’s a lot to handle in one day. In between and among these events we find all the details of betrayal and denial that have become so familiar. We tend to focus on Judas as the traitor. How quick we are to overlook the denial of Peter and the other apostles. Surely they betrayed the Lord as much as Judas. Yet, the difference is that Judas despaired and committed suicide. Peter and the other apostles eventually turned back. Peter became the revered head of the Church just has Jesus had predicted. Jesus knew that those closest to him would abandon him and yet he chose them anyway. Why?

I wonder if perhaps Jesus allowed these major scandals in the beginning to prepare us for the many future scandals that would affect the Church. Maybe he wanted it to be very clear that the Church is his Church and it will thrive not because of the holiness of the members, but because of him. If the early church could overcome the first pope denying that he even knew Jesus, then surely there is no scandal so big that it should ever cause us to despair as Judas did.

Today, we see that not much has changed since to time of the passion. All around we see scandal. The Church in Ireland and Germany is going through something similar to what we experienced in the United States some years ago. We are rightfully ashamed and outraged at the crimes of abuse perpetrated by some priests in those countries. Some people have even falsely accused the Pope himself in much the same way we see Jesus accused. Most of all, we hurt for the victims.

Yes, scandal continues to plague the Church, but we should not be so surprised. All of us have betrayed the Lord through our sins. It is fitting that today we are both part of the crowd that yells “Hosanna” and the later one that yells “Crucify him”. At the Last Supper, when Jesus predicts his betrayal, the apostles respond with shock, “Who would do such a deed?” Perhaps me…perhaps you.

Yet, we need not despair. We know the end of this story. This is the story we celebrate this week and it truly is “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Yes, we humbly admit that we have many times shouted that we prefer Barabbas to Our Lord. But we also know the hope held out for us in Jesus Christ and we will assuredly also be in the crowd a week from today yelling no longer “Crucify him”, but rather, “Alleluia…He is risen.” Let’s have confidence and not give up along the way.

Homily 82 – 5th Sunday of Lent

Posted: March 21st, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Top Tips for Being a More Perfect Penitent

Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been to confession. There are lots of reasons that people can fall away from the practice of regular confession. In today’s homily, I focus on some practical tips to make the whole experience less scary. Some are very basic, like what to say and do. Some should be obvious, but often prove difficult. For instance, when you go to confessions, make sure you confess your sins and not those of your spouse! Also, confessions should normally be brief. The priest doesn’t need to know the “story” behind your sin (which often amounts to making excuses to justify ourselves).

Confessions doesn’t have to be complicated or scary. Just come and concisely tell the whole sin…and nothing but the sin. In exchange, God takes them all away and you start over with all the grace you need to be holy. That’s a pretty good deal. Listen to this week’s homily for other tips to make sure you are prepared for this sacrament and for Easter.