Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 51 – Memorial of St. Ambrose

Posted: December 7th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A Little Help From Our Friends

Today Jesus shows us in the Gospel that he has the power to forgive sins. He also shows us that sometimes we need a little help getting to the point of forgiveness. The man int he Gospel is paralyzed and it is the faith of his friends that brings about his healing. We all need to be forgiven, to be healed, but we don’t have to do this alone. St. Ambrose is a great example of a friend who helped bring many people to know Jesus. His most famous convert is the great St. Augustine. Who are the people in our lives who have helped us come to know Jesus? Who do we need to reach out to and help? With a little help from our friends, and God’s grace, we can do a lot more than just get by.

Homily 50 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Posted: December 6th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Caution – Construction Ahead

Advent is a season full of symbols. We have the Advent wreath and Advent calendars. There is the Jesse tree. We put lights on our houses to symbolize the light of Christ coming into the world to scatter the darkness. At Christmas the familiar manger scenes replace the wreathes of Advent. We make special food, sing special songs, and send special cards. Yes, there are many symbols of this season. One symbol that is often overlooked is the ever familiar…orange construction cone.

Why an orange construction cone to symbolize Advent? No one likes to encounter a construction zone while driving down the road. The person holding the sign with the ominous warning “Slow” says it all. It can take a great deal of patience not to get frustrated with a construction zone. Despite the inconvenience while the construction is going on, pretty much everyone is pleased with the result when the construction is over. Driving down a nice smooth road or having a new turn lane are often worth the wait.

Today’s readings speak of our relationship with God using images taken from road construction. In order to prepare for the coming of God, we are told to straiten the crooked roads, smooth out the rough places, level the hills and fill in the valleys. As we look to get our highway prepared for the coming of God this Advent, maybe we notice a few potholes that need to be fixed. Maybe the work required is more substantial. Sometimes you’ve patched things so much that there comes a time when you need to scrape off the worn out layer and resurface. What kind of spiritual roadwork do you need to do to prepare this Advent?

In addition to the repairs that we need to make, the message on the familiar sign is a good one, “Slow.” This season can become so busy with all the extra things we add. Yet, what we need most is to slow down, take time for prayer and reflection, to simplify our lives. Maybe an orange construction cone is not such a bad symbol for Advent after all. The next time you encounter some construction, think of the smooth road being created and then remember to slow down in your own life and prepare the way of the Lord.

Homily 49 – Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

Posted: December 4th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Following Jesus Even When We’re Blind

Today’s Gospel tells of two blind men who, despite not being able to see, are described as “following” Jesus as he passes by and then “approaching” him when he goes inside. Have you even thought how difficult that must have been? We all go through periods of darkness in our lives when it seems hard to see Jesus. We know Jesus is there, but the situation is so difficult or God seems so far away that it’s like we’re blind. The men in the Gospel give us a great example today. When things are difficult and it’s hard to see, we’ve got to keep going and keep following and approaching Jesus. After all, we walk by faith and not by sight. A little blindness now and then can be a great opportunity to strengthen our faith.

Homily 48 – Feast of St. Andrew

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

Taking the Gospel to Scotland and Beyond

St. Andrew is best known in the Gospels as being the brother of St. Peter. He is in fact the one who introduces Peter to Jesus according to St. John’s Gospel. We know very little else about St. Andrew, but we do know that he gave his life in witness to Christ, probably on this day in A.D. 60. It is said that, like his brother, he felt unworthy to be crucified after the manner of Our Lord, so he was crucified on a cross in the shape of an ‘X’ as opposed to the familiar ‘T’. This cross has come to be known as the St. Andrew’s Cross. St. Andrew is also the patron of Scotland whose flag bears his cross. In the early Middle Ages, the relics of the saint were taken to Scotland, the “end of the earth” at the time, to keep them safe. Since that time, St. Andrew has been helping keep the faith in Scotland safe. We pray that he may inspire us to continue to take the Gospel to the “end of the earth” in our day. That might even mean to members of our family. Maybe we too have a “brother” who needs to hear about Jesus.

Homily 47 – 1st Sunday of Advent

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

The Beginning of the End is Coming

We begin this new year somewhat where we left last week, focused on the coming of Jesus. The message today is to be vigilant and be ready. This is really the point of the season of Advent, to prepare well for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. I’m getting asked a lot lately if the world is going to end in 2012. There’s a new movie out that uses this as part of the plot. Although I’m not recommending the movie, it does have people thinking. Will the world end in 2012? I don’t know. It might. It might end long after that…or it might end…TODAY.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel today that many will fear his coming, but that we are to hold our heads erect knowing that our redemption is at hand. Does the thought of the world ending in 2012 scare you? Why? Maybe there is something that you know you need to change that you’ve been putting off. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been to confession. The bottom line is this; if there is something that you would change in your life to be ready if you knew the world was going to end in 2012 then…DO IT! Don’t wait, just fix it now. You may not even have until 2012.

We’ve been given the next several weeks to spiritually prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. We have to realize that society is not going to help us with this. We need quiet, simplicity, and time for prayer and contemplation to awaken a sense of hope and anticipation. Society is throwing materialism, noise, and an overwhelming sense of busyness at us. Be deliberate with your preparation this Advent. Clear away anything that impedes Jesus coming fully into your life. If Jesus returned today, are you fearful or prepared and read to hold your head erect? Jesus is coming; let’s be ready.

Homily 46 – Thanksgiving

Posted: November 26th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Thanksgiving Has Two Parts

There are two parts of thanksgiving, and I’m not referring to food and football. On this national civic holiday of Thanksgiving you will often hear people listing the things for which they are thankful. The first part of thanksgiving is knowing just what it is that we should be thankful for. This task can be harder than it seems these days. When you stop think about it, we’re a society that really has it all. Yet, just as Jesus warns time and again in the Scriptures, material wealth and “having it all” don’t lead to happiness, yet alone thanksgiving. Rather we seem to be a culture of complaining and dissatisfaction most of the time. Thanksgiving is therefore a great day to stop and smell the turkey before devouring it and remember just how fortunate we really are. There is much for which we should be thankful and that should be a cause of real joy.

However, having a lot to be thankful for is only the first part of thanksgiving. Even more important than knowing the things for which we should be thankful, we’ve got to know the one to whom we should be thankful. In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of ten lepers who are cured but that only one returns to give thanks to God. We might be tempted to think that the point is that only 1 out of 10 were thankful. I don’t think that is the case. To be cured of leprosy would have left all ten overjoyed and no doubt feeling very thankful. The difference between the one who returns and the other nine is not that one was more thankful than the others. Rather the one who returned knew not only what he should be thankful for, but to whom he needed to go to offer that thanks. He returned to to Jesus, to God, to express his gratitude.

On this great day of Thanksgiving, let us take time to to call to mind all the things we should be thankful for, our material prosperity, our freedom, our family and friends…even food and football. But let’s not forget the one to whom we owe all thanks and praise. The most important part of thanksgiving is knowing and thanking the God who gives us everything. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, today and every day.

Homily 45 – Solemnity of Christ the King

Posted: November 22nd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Giving Jesus His Proper Place

Today’s feast marks the last Sunday of our liturgical year. It comes at the end to remind us where things are headed. Jesus Christ is King! This is true now, but it is also a truth that has not yet been fully realized. We live in this tension of the “now” and “not yet” of God’s kingdom. Our mission is to bridge this gap, to make the reign of Jesus that is not yet perfect a part of the now in which we live.

It is interesting that we celebrate Jesus today under the title of our “King.” In the Old Testament, we see that God never intended that his chosen people would have a king to rule over them. God himself was to be their king. Yet, when the Israelites settle in the promised land, they see that all the other nations have kings. Their kings lead them in battle and give them someone to rally around and to cheer for. Israel decides that they want a king too. In choosing an earthly king over God, the Israelites substitute a lesser in place of the greater.

We are not so different today. There are many ways in which we continue to substitute other things in the place that properly belongs to God. If we look at our passion for sports we can see where we love to assemble and jump up and down and scream and yell for our team. We love to rally around our teams and we idolized our sports heroes. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we do have to realize that these desires will never be fulfilled by sporting events. They point us toward a more important reality.

This past week, over 23,000 young people gathered in Kansas City for the National Catholic Youth Conference. As we gathered in the Sprint Center it was a scene that would have been familiar to the building at the start of any major sporting event. However, something very different happened here. When the curtains parted for the team to run onto the court, instead of Michael Jordan running out, Jesus ran out to center court. Archbishop Naumann carried our Lord in the Eucharist to the altar and the crowd went crazy, better than Jordan ever got. As the lights came down and people fell to their knees, countless flashes started to go off to get a picture of the “superstar” at center court.

After a period of adoration and benediction, there was a huge procession down the middle of downtown Kansas City to Bartle hall. The scene was one that could have easily been confused for a World Series parade. People packed the street from side to side for an hour in procession. Yet, the victor at the head of this parade was not some winning sports team, but Christ the King. For a few days at NCYC, things were turned right-side up again and Jesus was in his proper place. We got to experience a little bit of the “not yet” that is possible even “now.” May this feast of Christ the King give us the courage to look hard at the places in our lives where we have substituted something else in place of the kingship of Jesus. Let’s give Jesus his proper place.

Homily 44 – Presentation of Mary

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

Mary Said Yes Many Times

On this Memorial of the Presentation of Mary, the Gospel has an interesting connection. While not chosen specifically for this feast day, the Gospel speaks of how there is no marriage in heaven. Those called to the celibate vocation give particular witness to this fact. While different biblical scholars have different opinions, there is evidence to suggest that Mary had made a pledge of celibacy and intended to live as a consecrated virgin during her life. This vow would have probably been taken at the time of her presentation when she was dedicated to the Lord. She said yes to God’s plan then and continued to say yes over and over throughout her life. May we always say yes to God like Mary did.

Homily 43 – Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 16th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Compromising the Faith Brings False Unity

Our first reading today tells the sad tale of how many of the Israelites abandoned the practice of their faith in  order to fit in better with the pagans around them. The got tired of having to live a lifestyle that was different than the rest of the culture. The Gentile king even proposes that it would be much better if everyone could be unified in worshiping the same gods. How often we hear this same logic in our own day. If only we would give up these silly religious beliefs or at least not claim to know anything with certainty; then we could all be unified. After all, religion is the cause of so much division. If we just admitted that nothing is true then there would be nothing to argue about and we could all be unified. So goes the popular wisdom. The reading today ends with the brief statement that some of the Israelites refused to abandon their faith for the sake of this false unity. They chose to die rather than submit to an evil compromise to achieve a fake unity. What will we do? How will we respond to the pressures of our time?

Homily 42 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 15th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Winning in the 4th Quarter of Life

The football team at the high school where I am chaplain has the tradition at the end of the third quarter of raising four fingers in the air to remind everyone that it is now the 4th quarter. If the team is behind, it’s a sign that the game is not over yet. “We can still win this thing!” If the team is ahead, it’s a reminder not to quit or try to coast to a victory. “Keep up the intensity!” Four fingers in the air on the hands of all the players and coaches is a great sign to remember that the game is going to end very soon and what you do in the next quarter is going to determine the outcome.

In the readings today, Jesus also wants us to be aware of the signs of the times. As we come to the end of our liturgical year the readings remind us that, just like a football game, life does not go on forever. We are living as it were in the 4th quarter of life. Maybe there are some things we know we need to change. It’s not to late. “We can still win this thing!” Maybe we’ve been leading a pretty good life. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. “Keep up the intensity!” One thing we cannot do is pretend that life should be easy and we can simply run out the clock on life and automatically expect to win.

One of the greatest mistakes in life is to live as though we have no enemies. Life is battle and it’s not easy. The Church has traditionally reminded us of three important enemies that we face: the world, the flesh and the devil. The world refers to all those external pressures that get in the way of our being holy. Society and all that goes with it today is not so much in the business of helping us to heaven. Sadly, much of what secular culture throws at us these days is something that we need to actively oppose. The flesh refers to all of our disordered desires, particularly those of selfishness and pride. We have to master our passions or they will control and enslave us.

Our final enemy is the devil. We have to realize that we have a real, personal, and powerful, enemy working against God’s plan for our life. We needn’t fear the devil, or any of these enemies,but we do need to engage in opposing them. When the football team holds up their four fingers, they’re not thinking “Oh no, it’s the 4th quarter; we might lose.” Rather I hear them shouting “This is our quarter!” This is the kind of confidence we need. We need to recognize that we do indeed have enemies that we must fight, but then we need to recognize that “This is our quarter!” When Pope Leo XIII received a vision that the devil would be particularly powerful in the 20th century. He confidently implored the help of St. Michael by writing the following prayer and having it prayed at the end of every Mass:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray,
And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host,
By the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all other evil spirits,
Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

With St. Michael and all our heavenly friends joining us in the fight, we know who wins this game.