Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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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.

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.