Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 76 – 1st Sunday of Lent

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

Flipping for Jesus

While watching the Olympics recently, I was very interested in the “freestyle skiing” competition. The athletes ski down a steep hill and then into a ramp that throws them high in the air while they do all kinds of flips and twists before landing. I wondered how one would ever get the courage to do this the first time. I suppose that they probably didn’t start with the complicated moves we see on TV at the Olympics. They probably started with just learning how to ski and maybe with one simple flip. As they progressed they gradually added more flips and twists as they were pushed by the competition.

I noticed that the spiritual life is a lot like this. God doesn’t ask us to put on skis for the first time and head down a mountain in an attempt to flip 8 times with 5 twists. Rather, we start small, maybe just learning how to ski. This is what Lent is for. We learn how to discipline our wills, not by doing large and extravagant penances, but starting small, by learning how to say “no” to things like candy. As we learn to resist these smaller temptations during Lent, we may find that we can do more than we thought. We may start to feel comfortable stretching ourselves, adding a few more flips to our spiritual repertoire.

Let us do our best to compete this Lent, to compete against ourselves and our weaknesses, to overcome the temptations of the devil, and emerge from the wilderness triumphant just as Jesus did in the Gospel today.

Homily 75 – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: February 14th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Overcoming Spiritual Desolation with St. Ignatius

Many people speak of the great joy they find in their relationship with God. You can see how alive they are with the Spirit. This is a truly beautiful gift from God. However, have you ever felt like God seemed distant, your prayer dry, with no love for the things of God? Sadly, many of us can relate more with the second category than the first. Yet, St. Ignatius of Loyola has some really encouraging news for those who find themselves in this group. He assures us that we all will at times experience this state which he calls spiritual desolation, and it doesn’t mean that we’ve done anything wrong or that God really is absent. Today’s homily shares some of the wisdom from St. Ignatius for what to do in desolation, how to overcome it, and how to grow in our faith.

Homily 74 – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

We’re On a Mission from God

God tells us today through the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” John Henry Cardinal Newman reminds us that this means we all have a special mission from God that is given to no other. It would be a great tragedy if we went through life without ever knowing our mission. The recent anniversary of the legalization of abortion in this country is also a tragedy that becomes even greater when you think about all the unique missions that have been lost. A commercial that is set to be shown during the Superbowl this year is creating some interesting controversy in this area. This week’s homily explores the unique mission given to each of us and our reasons to have hope for the future.

Homily 72 – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

History Gives Us Context

Sometimes as we go through life we can become so focused on our present situation that forget our larger place in history. We can even wander away from our core principles if we fail to review them from time to time. A recent trip to Washington, D.C. provided an opportunity for me to reflect on the history of our country and the principles that define it. It was surprising to notice all the references to God that were carved in the stone of all the buildings. In many ways we have forgotten the context in which our country was founded. Although I didn’t climb up to see it, I was reminded that atop the Washington Monument, the highest stone in the entire city bears the simple message, Laus Deo, “Praise be to God.” This is the mark the our founding fathers wanted to leave on history. We pray that when the history of our lives is written that they may be a great monument rising to the heaven and capped with the final words, “Praise be to God.”

Homily 67 – Solemnity of the Epiphany

Posted: January 3rd, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Do You See What I See?

In the summer of 2008, a movie came out called “WALL-E”. The plot is set many years in the future when Earth has become so covered with trash that nothing will grow anymore. All the people are forced to leave the planet and live in spaceships while trash collecting robots clean up the earth. WALL-E is one of these robots. One can imagine how sad the people must have been as they left Earth behind. Yet it was not without hope. The departure was only temporary. As soon as the Earth was cleaned up, they could return. They created a system of probes to go regularly and check on the Earth. As soon as plants began to grow again, the probes would bring back the evidence that it was safe to return.

In the course of the movie the great day finally arrives when a probe returns to one of the spaceships with a tiny plant from Earth. At last, the good news that had long been awaited has arrived. Everyone can now return home. However, instead of the expected great joy, something different happens. You see, the people had been living so long in the spaceships that they had grown accustomed to this new life. The movie shows them all fat and lazy, sitting on little floating chairs watching TV all day. In a great twist, the people don’t receive the “good news” as good at all. They’re not much interested in returning to Earth. Moreover, the one in charge of the spaceships kind of likes being in charge and doesn’t want to see it end. He tries to hide news of the plant and then even sets about frantically trying to kill the little plant. How could good news go so wrong?

I was reminded of this movie by our gospel today. Much like the people in the movie were supposed to be patiently waiting their return to Earth, the Israelites in Jerusalem were supposed to be anxiously preparing for the Messiah. However, as time passed, the Israelites began to grow accustomed to their enslaved state. They made compromises with the Romans and worshiped their gods. The began to fit in with the pagans around them and forgot all about waiting for the Messiah. Then one day in our gospel, the Magi show up and announce the good news that at last the long-awaited Messiah has been born. What is the reaction?

Just as in the movie, the good news is not seen as being so good. The gospel tells us that the Magi were “overjoyed at seeing the star” and yet when the people in Jerusalem get the news, they are “troubled.” A new Messiah would mean that all their lives would have to change. Even if this would be for the better, it’s often easier to just keep on doing what you’re used to. King Herod himself has grown rather accustomed to being in charge and doesn’t like the idea of a new king. Instead of welcoming his savior, he sets about trying to kill him just as they tried to kill the little plant in the movie.

What’s the message here for us? I think you have to ask why these outsiders, these Magi, were able to see something that everyone in Jerusalem missed. We don’t know exactly what the star of Bethlehem looked like, but it couldn’t have been all that obvious. Rather, these Magi were experts at studying the start. They probably spent many hours looking to the heavens and so they were watching when the star appeared and were able to identify it. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, people were figuratively looking at the ground. They were looking at this world and how to compromise and get by and stopped looking in the right place, toward heaven.

The message of Christmas is not just that Jesus came 2000 years ago, but that he comes to us today. He brings us good news. He offers to radically change our lives for the better if we follow him. Do we really see it as good news? Maybe we have become like the people in WALL-E and just enjoy being fat and lazy as we try to get by with our eyes fixed on this world rather than on heaven. The star shines for us today just as it did for the Magi. They left everything to follow the star. The question is, “Will we?”

Homily 66 – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

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

What Child is This?

There is a popular Christmas carol that asks of the newborn Jesus, “What child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” Today, on this octave day of Christmas, the Church gives us this feast in honor of Mary under the title “Mother of God.” Many non-Catholics at first might have difficulty with this title. However, the answer to the question posed by the carol, “What child is this?”, is also the answer to any objections to calling Mary the Mother of God. Mary gave birth to the child Jesus and this child was, is, and always will be God. Mary is therefore properly called Mother of God.

In the history of the Church, this title was actually first questioned by a Catholic bishop in 431. Although the Church had been referring to Mary as Mother of God for some time, the bishop Nestorius thought that this title implied that Mary was somehow the origin of God the way any parent could be seen as the origin of their child. Obviously Mary is not the source of the Godhead since Jesus was God even before his conception. Still a Council was called in Ephesus to determine if this title should continue to be used. What was discovered was that, if it was said that Mary was not the Mother of God, then the logical question would return to our carol, “What child is this?”

As is the case with all of the doctrines regarding Mary, they speak not so much about Mary but rather about Jesus. Was Jesus always God? Because Nestorius did not want to admit that Mary was the Mother of God, he then ended up denying that Jesus was God at his birth. Needless to say, the council fathers rejected Nestorius and affirmed the long-held teaching of the Church that Jesus was always God and Mary, his mother, is therefore rightfully called Mother of God.

Today we celebrate that Mary is also our mother. Jesus gave her to us from the cross. May she continue to protect and nuture our faith and belief in Jesus. May she intercede to bring us peace in this new year. May she do as she has always done…lead all of us closer to Jesus.

Homily 65 – 6th Day in the Octave of Christmas

Posted: December 30th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Word Became Flesh

God was always a Trinity of persons from all eternity. The second person of the trinity, the Son, always existed. Yet, we celebrate at Christmas that he took on flesh and was born in time. This reminds us of an important truth. This world is good, so good that God himself entered into it and became one of us. He who was eternally begotten of the Father, and is now begotten of Mary and enters his own creation. However, Jesus comes into this world to lead us beyond this world. As good as this world is, it’s not all there is. St. John reminds us today “Do not love this world or the things of this world.” We have to keep things in perspective. Christmas us the we are good enough that God would become one of us, but it also reminds us that we are too good for this earth. We are made for heaven. Let us remember this Christmas that Jesus came to earth so that we might come to heaven.

Homily 64 – 5th Day in the Octave of Christmas

Posted: December 29th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

In the Light with St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket is perhaps the most famous martyr of the middle ages. He was Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry II who later also named him Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas did not want to be bishop and it soon became clear that he had only been named to this post because the king assumed he would be a pushover who would easily allow him to control the Church in England. For a while, Thomas was actually willing to go along with plan. However, the grace of ordination eventually caught up with him and, to his credit, Thomas responded. He stood up faithfully for the Church and defended her against the intrusions of the king. Thomas eventually gave his life rather than submit any more to the king’s plan.

Today, maybe society isn’t going to threaten us with martyrdom if we don’t play along, but there are pressures. If you stand up the faith and refuse to give into the secular watering down of society then you will suffer. Jesus promised this. How do we allow ourselves to be played by society and merely used? Where are we being called to take a stand like St. Thomas and say that we’ve had enough. The readings continue to speak of light and darkness. Let’ make sure that we continue to follow the path of light.

Homily 63 – Feast of the Holy Innocents

Posted: December 28th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Who’s Side Are We On?

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could see a little baby as a threat, yet that is what we see recounted in our gospel today. When Jesus was born, the shepherds and magi see in the Christ Child a savior. Herod, however, sees only a rival to be feared and eliminated. The “Holy Innocents” we celebrate today are all those little babies that Herod had murdered in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus. Sadly, this event is not the first such occurrence in Scripture. When the Israelites grew numerous in Egypt, Pharaoh also sensed a rival and thus ordered all the babies to be thrown in the river. Despite this attempt, Moses, like Jesus, escaped the plot. The important point in these stories is to recognize that God’s plan was brought about even in spite of these murderous efforts to thwart it. Many babies died in Egypt and Bethlehem and yet Moses and Jesus remained safe. God’s plan was accomplished.

Sadly, some today continue to look upon children as an inconvenience just as Pharaoh and Herod did. Like them, people continue to make the mistake of thinking that killing babies will eliminate our problems. No, the Scripture shows us clearly that God’s will is done. The readings speak today of light and darkness. The magi are in darkness, and yet they see the star and follow the light. They are willing to go out of their way, to change their lives to conform to God’s guidance. The magi find their way to the light. We too are often given the choice between light and darkness.

This day which commemorates the sad slaughter of so many innocent children in Bethlehem is somewhat ironically a feast day on our calendar, a day for celebrating. We celebrate the fact that Herod’s plan failed. Not only did Jesus survive, but the lives of the little babies were not snuffed out as Herod had planned. Rather, these children now live forever in heaven where they intercede for us. Yes, we rejoice to see that God’s plan is triumphant even in the face of great opposition and evil. Light will always be triumphant over darkness. The only question that remains is, “Who’s side are we going to be on?”

Homily 62 – Feast of the Holy Family

Posted: December 27th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Example of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

On this day when we honor the Holy Family, we might be temped to merely look at Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a unique group in history to be admired but not much else. Yet, the Church never holds up saints or anything holy merely to be looked at like a museum piece. Rather, the saints show us what we are capable of and inspire us to imitate their holiness. Our families are called to be “holy families” too!

This may at first seem like a rather difficult task to imitate the Holy Family. They seem so unique. If we look closely though, we see that they had their difficulties and struggles just like any family. Mary and Joseph were real parents who had to take care of and raise little Jesus. Jesus, we are told, had to learn and grow in wisdom and knowledge. Today we read how the young boy Jesus got lost. Although the Holy Family was indeed given special graces for their special mission, much of their life was not so different from ours.

God has chosen to use the family as his special means to bring about the salvation of the world. He chose to be born into a family. He has given us our families, with all their imperfections, to be our means to salvation as well. There is a special blessing in the fact that we don’t choose our families. We can plan out our lives all we want but, in this most important area of family, it’s up to God. Parents don’t choose their kids and kids don’t choose their parents. We’re stuck with each other. Yet, if we really stop an think about it, we probably wouldn’t have it any other way. Our family may not be perfect, but it is our family. Our family is God’s gift to us to show us his love and today we ask him to help make us a little more holy, like Jesus, Mary and Joseph.