Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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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.

Homily 61 – Christmas

Posted: December 25th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace

Our first reading from Isaiah gives us those beautiful and familiar words, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” The people of God at the time of Isaiah knew well that they needed a savior. Today, if we are to experience the full joy of Christmas, we too must recognize our desperate need for our savior, Jesus Christ. These four titles foretold of the Messiah by the prophet give us a way to recognize this need.

In a world filled with voices speaking lies and promising happiness from every form of sin, we need a counselor. We need a sure guide who will give us true teaching and lead us to truth. We need a wonder-counselor.

We also need heroes. A hero is someone who inspires us by showing all that is great an good about the human race. A hero shows us a glimpse of what we all might be capable of. We tend to idolize sports figures and celebrities as our heroes today, but they ultimately let us down. Jesus Christ is the ultimate and greatest hero, the God-hero. No one better shows us what we are capable of and inspires us to perfection like Jesus.

Many of us can testify first hand to the need for a savior for our families. The devil knows that the family is God’s key to manifesting his love for the world. Fatherhood has suffered greatly in recent times. We need a savior, a Father-Forever, to restore our families. Jesus is the love of the Father incarnate. He shows us what it means to love with a family love. God is not some distant power, but a father who loves us. Jesus reveals this love to us.

Finally, perhaps most associated with Christmas is the desire for peace. In a world plagued by war and violence, we need a prince of peace. Yet, the peace that Jesus brings is not merely an earthly peace. There has always been and always will be war in this life. Jesus brings us the chance to have peace no matter what difficulties life might throw at us. This is a heavenly peace that no one can take away.

The angles sing at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” May our Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, our Prince of Peace, bring us this joy and heavenly peace this Christmas.

Homily 60 – Thursday of the 4th Week of Advent

Posted: December 24th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A House for God

The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament represented the presence of God to the Israelites. It was his dwelling place. As they journeyed through the wilderness they kept the ark in the tabernacle, the meeting tent. Upon arriving in the promised land, David decided to build a more permanent structure. His son, Solomon, would eventually build this great temple to be God’s house. Yet at Christmas we celebrate something even greater. God no longer dwells in tents or buildings. Rather we celebrate that God took on flesh and became incarnate. Our own flesh became God’s house when Jesus became man. This is a greater wonder and a more glorious dwelling then anyone ever imagined. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Homily 59 – Wednesday of the 4th Week of Advent

Posted: December 23rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Unplanned Pregnancies Saved the World

Today’s gospel tells of the birth of John the Baptist. You might remember the gospel from a few days ago in which little John was described as “leaping for joy” in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary arrived carrying the baby Jesus in her womb. It should be perfectly clear from Scripture that no Christian could ever hold to the lie that babies are nothing more than “tissue” before they are born. These two little ones were not only alive in a natural sense, but even alive in the spiritual sense, responding to the grace of the Holy Spirit.

It is a great irony to think that after Jesus is born, this little baby would be seen as such a threat that Herod would have all the baby boys in Bethlehem murdered. How can a baby threaten anyone? Yet, Herod found the birth of this new “king” to be an inconvenience to his own plans. Jesus would have brought Herod happiness that he never could have planned for; instead he planned to have Jesus killed. Fear and selfishness sometimes cause us to do irrational and even diabolical things.

Unfortunately, the crime of Herod was not the first such incident in history. Pharoh had done a similar deed at the time of Moses. Nor was Herod the last to have such ideas. Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, on the very night when Christians everywhere will gather in prayer to celebrate the birth of a little baby, the United States Senate will instead be meeting to plot for the first time in history to force all tax payers to cooperate in the murder of millions of little babies through the forced public funding of abortion. Not much has changed in 2000 years.

It remains a great sadness today as it was in the time of Moses and Jesus to ever think of a little baby as a threat that needs to be killed. However, the line from the Gospel today that most saddens me with regard to abortion is the observation of the crowd at the birth of John the Baptist, “What then will this child be?” I often pose this question to parents at baptisms. I wonder about the futures of all the little babies lost to abortion. What good were they created to do? What medical cures and scientific discoveries have been lost? Perhaps someone destined to be one of the greatest saints in the Church has been aborted.

In history God has often used the birth of a baby to bring about his plans. Often this was through what we would call today an “unplanned pregnancy.” To Mary and Joseph, no preganacy could have seemed more unplanned that Jesus’, yet God had planned it from all eternity. The same is true of any baby conceived today. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy we need to ask, “What then will this child be?” Let’s pray that the Senate will change their minds and go home for Christmas to celebrate the birth of a little baby who saved the world.

Homily 58 – Monday of the 4th Week of Advent

Posted: December 21st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Christmas and the Solstice

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, one of the rather nice connections with Christmas and the natural world is that the celebration of Our Lord’s birth takes place just after the annual winter solstice. This is the darkest day of the year. Christmas is therefore just after this darkest time when the the light is just starting to increase each day. Obviously, the all of our brothers and sisters in the southern hemisphere things are quite different, but up north this connection with light and darkness is a nice addition.

However, a problem arrises when people claim that the celebration of Christmas was all made up as a replacement for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The truth is that the exact reason for December 25th being the day of Jesus’ birth is not completely clear. There is, however, some good evidence to show that long before the celebration of Christmas, the Church celebrated the Annunciation on March 25th. Add nine months and the you can see that the date of Christmas was set based on this (I always assumed it was the other way around). Whatever the reason for the date, we celebrate the true light coming into the world as God became man. Now that’s a lot more to celebrate than just the revolving of the earth around the sun.

Homily 57 – 4th Sunday of Advent

Posted: December 20th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Spouse of the Holy Spirit

We often overlook the person of the Holy Spirit and his role in the Christmas story. The Father and the Son seem a bit more tangible to us in general. The Holy Spirit can be rather enigmatic. On this last Sunday of Advent, perhaps one way to make the third person of the Trinity a little more real is to remember that Mary is often referred to as the spouse of the Holy Spirit.

I often speak at weddings of how the love expressed in marriage has certain important qualities that make it unique. Married love is marked by four key characteristics; it is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. The relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit ought to then exhibit these same characteristics. Mary gave a free assent to God’s plan. She held nothing back and gave a total gift of herself to serve God. She was faithful to the Spirit’s leading, even when she didn’t understand. The result was that, although she remained a virgin her entire life, the Spirit made her fruitful. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the love of God incarnate, the fruit of the spousal union of Mary and the Spirit.

Mother Theresa reminded us that the surest sign of the presence of the Spirit is joy. This is what we see in Mary. After being told that she is to be the mother of God, she goes with haste to visit Elizabeth and take care of her needs. The joy of the Spirit makes even difficult tasks easy. Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit and John the Baptist leaps for joy in her womb. If we find that we are lacking in joy this Christmas, maybe we need to pay more attention to the Holy Spirit and our union with God. We too are called to give ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to God. If we do, the end result is clear; we will have joy.