Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 81 – 4th Sunday of Lent

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

Coming to Our Senses

Today’s familiar gospel story of the prodigal son presents us with an important image of life. The first part of the story tells of the tragic movement of the son away from home and away from the love of his father. The second part concerns the beautiful story of repentance and the return home to the loving father’s welcome. Amongst the details of the story, there are many characters and moments that provide much for meditation. However, there is one key moment that perhaps we don’t think enough about; it is that moment when the son chooses to reverse his path and head home. What brings about this important change? St. Luke tells us simply, “Coming to his senses, he thought…”

The key for the prodigal son was being able to stop, realize how far away he was from where he needed to be, and then deciding to do something about it. What if he had never had this moment? Perhaps most of us are not so far away from God as the prodigal son found himself. Yet, if we’re honest, there are probably a least a few ways in which we have to admit that we’re not headed in the right direction. In order to discover these things that stand in the way of our relationship with God we need to do like the prodigal son; we need to take time to stop and realize where we’re at. To do this we need silence. We need to turn off the TV, our computer, cell phone, or iPod. We need to take time to stop, come to our senses, and think.

Homily 80 – Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Posted: March 8th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Humility Leads to Healing

In today’s first reading, Naaman the Syrian gives us all an example of what we need to do if we desire healing from God. Despite being a high ranking official, he has the humility to admit his weakness and seek help. He perseveres despite being rejected by the king of Israel, passed off to some lowly prophet who won’t even come out to meet him, and then being told to literally go take a flying leap into the Jordan River. With a little help from his friends and great humility on his part, he gains the gift of healing he so desired.

The example of Naaman is a pattern for all of us to follow. Jesus even suggests him to us in today’s gospel. If you want to be healed, you’ve got to recognize your need, be humble enough to seek out God through the means he has established in his Church, and then persevere. Jesus is waiting to heal us, but if we are too proud to come confess our sins, or think that we can do this on our own, then we will experience the sad scene of the gospel; Jesus will walk right through the midst of us and we will miss him.

Homily 79 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

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

Be Aware

In 1521, St. Ignatius of Loyola had a powerful conversion that turned him from a life of worldly dissipation to becoming one of the greatest saints in the Church. The key moment for him came when he was recovering from an injury sustained in the battle of Pamplona. While forced to lay in bed all day he began to read about the life of Jesus and the saints. He wondered if maybe he could do the things they did. Yet, he still loved to dream of battle and romantic conquests. Gradually, he became aware that the thoughts of God brought him a lasting joy whereas the other thoughts brought only momentary pleasure. He then asked the question that would change his life forever, “Why?” This led him to an understanding of the workings of both the good and evil spirits and the writing of his rules for discernment of spirits that continue to bless the Church to this day.

A similar experience happens to Moses in our first reading today. He too becomes aware of something very important. In the movie “The 10 Commandments” Joshua is with Moses but sees nothing special, just “a bush that burns.” Moses, however, not only notices the bush in the first place, but is aware that there is something special about this bush. While burning, it is not consumed. He too asks the question, “Why?” This question is at the heart of all knowledge and learning. The official seal of the University of Kansas actually depicts this famous meeting between God and Moses at the burning bush encircled with the words of Moses which serve as the university’s motto: Videbo visionem hanc magnam, quare non comburatur rubus…”I will see this great vision, why the bush is not burned.”

For both Ignatius and Moses, becoming aware and asking “Why?” ultimately led them to an encounter with the living God. The same can be true for us. How aware are we of the workings of the spirit in our lives? Sadly, we seldom take time for this awareness. Instead, we often try to avoid thinking too much about why we do what we do or feel a certain way. Instead, we try to remain constantly distracted through TV, music, Internet, or a host of other sources of “entertainment.” Often the real reasons behind what we do or how we feel are too painful and so we try to ignore them. Lent is a great time to strip away some of these distractions and allow ourselves to be a little uncomfortable with some silence and to be aware of things that we had maybe been avoiding.

The story of the fig tree in the Gospel shows us what happens if we don’t pay attention to what’s happening in our spiritual life; we will be fruitless and barren. The gardener has the perfect example for us. He realizes that maybe the tree is not producing fruit because no one has paid enough attention to it. He decides to cultivate the soil and fertilize it. That is the great call to us this Lent, to begin paying attention and become aware, to live deliberately. If we do this, as was the case for Ignatius and Moses, we will soon find ourselves in a beautiful and new encounter with God. Yet, the lesson of the fig tree is also that time is limited and results are exected. Don’t put off making the changes you know you need to make. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Homily 78 – Monday of the 2nd Week of Lent

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

Measure for Measure

Today’s first reading from the prophet Daniel gives us a beautiful example of humility before God. When we humbly admit our sinfulness, it is then that God is able to show us his mercy. He would of course be just in condemning us, but Jesus instead teaches us that the Father is merciful. He then cautions us that, if we receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, then we should also be merciful to our brothers and sisters. The measure with which we measure will be measured back to us. In other words, don’t be stingy with showing mercy to others. What goes around comes around and we’d probably hope that God will be merciful in judging us. Let’s do the same for those around us.

Homily 77 – Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent

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

Peculiar, Holy, and Perfect

Praying over the scriptures today, I began wondering about what was meant by saying that we a people that God has made “peculiarly” his own. A little research and some dusting off of my Hebrew and Greek led me to some interesting insights into God’s plan for our life. We are called to be not only peculiar, but holy, and perfect. That idea of being perfect is often troubling. Yet, if we look at the Greek word that underlies the English we can see how wonderful this call is and also why it makes sense that we have to love our enemies as the Gospel indicates.

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?”