Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Religious Liberty – Two and a Half Years Later

Posted: July 4th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Listening to Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” while watching fireworks with friends and family always seems to bring a tear to my eye. This year I celebrated by exercising multiple constitutional rights, including going to Mass in the morning, going to a shooting range, blowing things up, and drinking some beer. I even managed to avoid having to quarter any British soldiers against my will (thank you 3rd amendment!).

This year’s Independence Day was also a little sobering. I fear that the freedoms we celebrate today may not be there for the coming generations. This past Monday the Supreme Court gave a narrow victory to religious people saying that, in certain narrow cases, we don’t have to pay for abortion, sterilization, and contraception. Yet, something so obvious as this, something so fundamental to the freedom of religion, carried the day by only a 5-4 margin. What’s even more alarming is that the most important issues in our society are being decided in courtrooms, by unelected rulers. The Executive and Judicial branches of our government, designed to be the weakest branches, now rule supreme. One can argue that we are no longer a republic.

This past Monday I admit that I celebrated a little to hear the Supreme Court’s decision. We’ve been losing so many of these battles in the courts. Yet, I was also sad that I have been reduced to the seemingly helpless position of waiting for the opinion of a few people on a court to decide the fate of our country. Hardly ever do we see a rally at the U.S. Capitol, the people’s house. No, we are constantly gathering outside the Supreme Court building, praying that the all-wise rulers from on high will benevolently grant us our rights.

On this Independence Day weekend, I look back and am grateful, grateful to have been raised in the time of some of the greatest moments in this country. I pray for our future. We can’t simply look to Washington to fix our problems. The real problems are in the hearts of each and every American. This country was founded on the idea that “we the people” are people of virtue. We are a nation of people that have time and again been willing to sacrifice our own interests and even our lives for the greater good of our country and of the world. I fear that we have now become a nation of selfish navel-gazers who only look out for ourselves and try to get as much as we can. No system of government can protect us from a citizenry that lacks virtue, nor can such a nation long endure.

It’s been two and a half years since the HHS mandate came down. Monday’s Supreme Court decision closes a certain chapter in the fight that began that day. There are more battles surrounding the mandate still making their way through the courts, but perhaps things may briefly head in the right direction on this issue. Two and half years ago the bishops of the United States came together with people of all faiths to defend our religious freedom. That Sunday I read a letter from Archbishop Naumann and gave a homily on religious freedom. I just listened to it again. I invite you to listen to it again as well. Then go listen to Lee Greenwood and be thankful, thankful that we still have the freedom to work for a better future for this great country.

http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/2012/02/homily-192-religious-liberty-and-justice-for-all/

Homily 276 – Competing Well – Peter and Paul

Posted: June 29th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The following homily was given to scouts gathered for Mass in the Chapel of the Twelve Apostles at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Missouri.

Lots of people are talking about the World Cup of soccer. It seems these days we really love our sports. We might therefore be happy to see that apparently St. Paul did too. He frequently uses sports analogies in his writings. In today’s second reading he sums up his whole life by saying he had “competed well” and “run the race.” We know a lot about sports, but how much do we know about our faith? We put a lot of effort into competing well on the field, but what about competing for the faith? Surely God expects as much effort out of us with regard to our faith as we would put into soccer. Today’s homily shows how even the World Cup can teach us something about life.

Homily 275 – It Is Better That I Go – Pentecost

Posted: June 9th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

After appearing to his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, Jesus is asked, “Are you going to restore the kingdom now?” To the shock of the apostles, Jesus says instead that he is leaving. He says that it is better that he go, so that the Holy Spirit will come. Jesus doesn’t do the things that apostles might have been implying in their question. He doesn’t kick the Romans out. He doesn’t fix the world. He leaves. Yet, he promises, “I will be with you always.”

We too can find many ways in which we would like Jesus to come and “restore the kingdom,” to “fix the world.” Like with the apostles, Jesus doesn’t promise to fix all the problems we encounter in this world. Rather, he promises to be with us. He has sent us his Spirit, and in doing so is more present to us today than he was when walking the earth with his apostles. Pentecost is a chance to remember the presence of Jesus in his Spirit and hear his calming reassurance, “I am with you…peace.”

Homily 274 – Inspire. Educate. Evangelize. – Ascension

Posted: June 1st, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The following homily was given at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Olathe, KS

Right on the top of the parish web site for St. Paul’s are three big words: “Inspire. Educate. Evangelize.” These three words fit nicely with the celebration of the Lord’s Ascension which we celebrate today. First, this day is meant to inspire us. Heave is for real…and our lives are meant to be ordered toward this final end. Secondly, today is a chance to be educated and educate others about what heaven really is. It’s not a cookie for good behavior at the end of life. Heaven is about a relationship…one that starts now. If what we want most of all with our life is God, then we’ll have him for all eternity. If we prefer ourselves and “our way” more than God, then we’ll have that for all eternity. This we call hell. Finally, when we’ve found this relationship with God, we have to go share it. That’s what evangelization is all about. When we’re inspired and educated, then we are sent. Jesus has given us the power. Let’s go spread the good news.

Homily 273 – I Have Called You Friends – Friday 5th Week of Easter

Posted: May 23rd, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The following homily was given at the Lumen Christi monastery of the Little Sisters of Lamb in Kansas City, KS

Our society today is very focused on romantic love. One would think that this is greatest love one could desire or find. Yet, when Jesus wanted to describe the love he had for his disciples, a love so great that it would cause him to lay down his life, he uses the word “friend.” Sometimes people of the opposite sex who are not romantically interested in each other will say that they are “just friends.” Today’s Gospel teaches us that there is no greater honor that you could ever have than to be someone’s friend.

Homily 272 – Finding the Way – 5th Sunday of Easter

Posted: May 18th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The following homily was given at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS on the occasion of the closing of the “Scouting 500″ gathering of scouts from all over the Kansas City area. Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn were present and I was the homilist.

Scouts know a lot about finding the way. We’re famous for it. Here are some thoughts that come to my mind when I think about scouting and finding the way:

1) While we scouts are famous for using a map and compass, a lot of us use GPS these day, especially in our cars. If you hit the “home” button on your GPS, no matter how lost you are, the GPS will calculate the perfect route home. If you take a wrong turn, it will automatically recalculate a new best route, which may not be the same as original best route. In life, we’re trying to get home too, but our home is in heaven. Like a good GPS, God has calculated the perfect route for our life. Yet, sometimes we take some wrong turns and even stop listening to the GPS. When we realize that we’re lost, we don’t need to try to find our way back, we just need to tell God we’re ready to head for home again and he’ll calculate a new best route. So don’t be surprised that the best way through life will most likely be a “recalculated” way.

2) The hard way is normally the best way. We scouts like hard. Anyone can sleep inside. We like to get outside, sleep on the ground, cook over a fire, and have fun doing it. Bad weather isn’t a letdown; it’s a challenge. Sometimes the colder and wetter it is, the more we rise to the challenge. Life throws lots of challenges at us. Jesus didn’t promise that it would be easy to be his followers. Quite the opposite. We scouts should make great disciples of Jesus because we’re not afraid of taking the hard way, even if not many others are going that way.

3) Don’t make things harder than you have to. Although we like hard, we also like being smart and going light. Backpacking is a true test of being smart about the challenges we take on. There is no reason to carry around a bunch of stuff we don’t need when backpacking. Philmont is the ultimate challenge for this. Twelve days with everything you need on your back. In my time at Philmont I’ve been surprised to discover just how little I really need to be comfortable and happy. As we go through life, we should also be careful about what we’re dragging along with us. Are we trying to acquire a bunch of “stuff” thinking it will make us happy? The truth is that we are most happy when we travel light through this world.

4) Freedom does not mean going in as many ways as possible. We are blessed with many opportunities and talents, and for young scouts especially there are so many things that you can do. Sometimes though we try to do too much. We’re afraid of missing out on something, so we play three sports at once, want to be in the band, on the debate team, in the play, in all these different clubs. In the end this leaves us not free, but exhausted. The most important decisions in life often come when we have to say no to one or more good things, so as to say a great yes to one thing. Finding your way through life will meaning saying no to many ways so that you can say yes to the way God has planned for you.

5) Finally, as we try to find our way through life, we are told in today’s Gospel that the way we are looking for is not some new technique or method. The “way” we are looking for is a person, Jesus Christ. He tells us plainly, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This is an astounding statement. Lots of other religious figures have coming and gone proposing various “ways” that people might go. Jesus comes not with “a” way, but says there is only one way, “the” way. Most radically of all, he says that “the” way is really he himself. Jesus Christ is the only way. That means we’ve got to find this way and then go tell others about it. It’s worth it to say no to every other way to follow the one way that leads us to our ultimate home.

Homily 271 – Seeing is Believing – 4th Sunday of Lent

Posted: March 30th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Today’s Gospel is filled with uses of the verb “to know.” In an almost trial-like fashion, the witnesses are questioned. The blind man is asked what he knows. “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” They question the parents and they reply almost as if advised by counsel, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes.” Everyone is very clear about exactly what they know and what they do not.

After examining all the witnesses and determining what facts can be known from proof, it is clear to just about everyone that a miracle has occurred. Despite all the facts, the Pharisees are not able to reach the obvious conclusion. They remain as it were blind to the truth.

However, the point of this detailed account is not just that the Pharisees fail to see the truth of an event. They are blind to something else much more important. After all this talk of knowing, Jesus comes to the blind man, now able to see, and now asks him not “What do you know?” but “Do you believe?” That’s the key question, for the blind man and for us. Anyone can look at a bunch of facts and reach some kind of conclusion to say what we “know,” but what do we “believe?” In a beautiful twist of providence, the blind man sees more clearly than anyone. “I do believe” and he worshiped.

Fr. Shawn Talks About the Movie “Noah”

Posted: March 29th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lot’s of people have been asking questions about the new movie “Noah.” I’m learning how to do video, so here is my first attempt at making a YouTube video for a movie review.

Homily 270 – I Thirst – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted: March 23rd, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Today’s story of the woman at the well uses one of our most basic human needs, our thirst, to teach us about God. We thirst for all kinds of things besides just water. Like the woman at the well, we keep going back over and over to try to satisfy our desires. We too would be attracted by the idea of never thirsting again. Jesus comes to teach the woman what will ultimately satisfy her thirst. None of us will have rest until we rest in God; only God can truly satisfy our thirst.

Yet, the reading today adds something that might easily be overlooked. Jesus also thirsts. He begins by asking the woman for a drink. Just as the woman is thirsting for more than mere water, so too Jesus is thirsting for something deeper. As we continue our journey toward Calvary, it won’t be long before we will again hear Jesus crying out “I thirst,” this time from the cross. What is Jesus thirsting for? He thirsts for us.

1968 All Over Again

Posted: March 1st, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Pope Francis started it. He said that we need to look at how the Church can better minister to people in “second marriages.” That doesn’t seem so bad. It seems like a very pastoral concern. He even decided to have the Synod of Bishops brainstorm some ideas this fall. A great idea. However, it seems that the Holy Father might as well have pushed a snowball down the start of large mountain.

From the time that Pope Francis informally mentioned his concern, it seems that everyone from “high ranking theologians” to talk show hosts have now decided that the result of all this will be that the Church is going to radically alter her teaching on marriage. Although I was not alive at the time, I can’t help but think that this all has a very similar feel to 1968.

Venerable Pope Paul VI saw a pressing pastoral problem in his day too. The Catholic faithful were abandoning the teaching of the Church to follow the rest of society in the use of contraception. To help him think through the issue, he formed a commission to advise him. Meanwhile, the media and popular opinion began to create the narrative that the result of all these deliberations was inevitable; obviously the Church would “get with the times” and approve the use of contraception.

When the Pope’s commission concluded their work, most of these important theologians concluded that they had come up with some theology to explain how contraception could be tolerated and that the Pope should approve it. Case closed. Problem solved. Except for one thing…the Holy Spirit. Human wisdom can of course fail, but Jesus promised that his Church would not. As affirmed at Vatican I, the Holy Spirit will prevent the Holy Father from formally teaching error on a matter of faith and morals intended for the universal Church, and that’s exactly what happened here.

Venerable Paul VI released his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae in July of 1968 which not only failed to approve contraception, but infallibly taught that it was a great evil that would have evil consequences for the world. Today, we can look back and see how right Paul VI was and breathe a sigh of relief that the Church came down on the right side of this. His decision was of course no surprise to God, but it shocked the rest of the world, including many of the Christian faithful.

Although the Holy Spirit did in fact prevent the Church from formally teaching error, the results were problematic. Because everyone was led to believe that a change in teaching was not only possible, but really a forgone conclusion, they had great difficulty accepting what seemed to be a surprise. The truth is that there was never a chance that the Church would come out in favor of contraception; God would not allow it. Yet, the speculation and false leadings of the media and theologians led to a lot of unnecessary hurt and confusion.

I think the present discussion regarding the situation of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics could end up mirroring that of 1968 and I fear a similar outcome.

People are speculating or even assuming that certain things will change where there is simply no chance that they will. Here are a few points to keep in mind as we prepare for the Synod this fall. Some things are possible; others are not.

Things That Can’t Change

  • A Sacramental, consummated marriage is completely indissoluble. There is no possibility for the Church to change this. The Church did not create the Sacrament of Marriage and has no power to alter it.
  • This means there is no way that the Church could ever “forgive” a valid marriage (as has been suggested), certainly less dissolve or annul it.
  • This is not a matter of forgiveness or mercy. When two people come before God to enter into marriage they ask God, “Please join us together in a way that is so permanent that no one, not even we ourselves, are capable of breaking this union.” The couple not only consents to this but begs God to do it, and he does.
  • Holy Communion usually cannot be received by those who have attempted a second marriage because, by engaging in marital relations with someone who is not their spouse, they are committing adultery. That is the explicit teaching of Jesus. You can’t be forgiven of a sin you’re not sorry for and have no intention of stopping.

Things That Could Change

  • There is talk that the ability to leave one’s marriage and enter a new one should be decided “pastorally” rather than “juridically.” Certainly the primary concern is always the care of souls. One is always aware of trying to help a person in these difficult situations. However, we have to be clear about what question is being asked. The question that must be answered is, “Who is married to whom?” Messy as it may be, this is of its essence a juridical question, not a merely pastoral one. If you’re already married to a living person then you can’t get married again. How we determine who is married to whom and how quickly this determination is made is something that could change.
  • We could ignore the sin. I know…I can’t believe I’m putting this out there. It’s not my opinion, but I guess I can’t say that it’s theologically off the table since just yesterday a Cardinal of the Church put forward basically this argument. In his language, he says we could never “accept” a second marriage, but we could possibly “tolerate” one. I have no idea what this means.

One thing I do know is that Jesus would never leave anyone beyond hope. No matter how deep one is in sin, there is always a way out. The Holy Father said yesterday that we must “accompany” those in this difficult situation and not condemn. Amen. But how should we accompany them? When one’s brother is lost in the forest, one does not accompany him by walking further in the wrong direction lest both of you become lost. The thing to do is to show up with a map and compass and lead the way out.

Until now, the pastoral “way out” of the sin of attempted marriage has been for the couple to live as brother and sister. Often they have children by this second relationship. They do not have to leave this relationship, but they have to act in a way that recognizes that they are not married, most especially in not having marital relations. This pastoral “way out” is already there. Is there another? That is the real question that the bishops will be asking this fall. Until then, let us all work to dispel myths about what can and cannot change. Let us work to avoid another 1968.