Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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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.

Homily 41 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Posted: November 9th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A “Chair” Man in Service of Unity

Many people think a cathedral is just a really big or beautiful church. Actually, any church could be a cathedral. A cathedral gets its name from the Latin word cathedra which means “chair.” Each diocese has a church which houses a special chair reserved for the bishop. This chair represents his governing and teaching authority over the diocese. A Bishop’s church which contains his chair, his cathedra, is therefore called a cathedral.

Today we celebrate the dedication of the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The bishop of Rome is of course also the Pope and thus, if you go to the Lateran basilica you will find a chair upon which Pope Benedict sits which represents his authority over the diocese of Rome and indeed over the entire universal Church. Today’s feast is thus a commemoration of the historical event in 324 when the physical building was first dedicated, but it also serves as a spiritual reminder. The Pope and his successors teach with authority given to them by Jesus. It is only through this ongoing presence of Jesus to His Church that unity is achieved.

Pope Benedict may well be remembered as the “Pope of Christian Unity” one day. His recent welcoming of many Anglicans back into union with the Church is just one example. Jesus promised that he would not allow the Pope to lead His Church into error in matters of faith and morals. This is a divinely protected gift that works often in spite of the sinfulness of the man himself. We thank God for the example of our present Holy Father today and pray for the continued unity of all Christians.

Homily 40 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 8th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Finding the Joy in Giving

Today’s readings present us with the tale of two widows. In biblical times, widows were some of the most vulnerable in society. With no husband to provide for them and no welfare system, they were completely on their own. The widow in our first reading has absolutely nothing, not even food enough for one more meal. In the midst of this, the prophet Elijah comes and demands that the woman bake him a cake! This would be comical if the situation wasn’t so desperate. What is God doing? Despite her destitute situation the woman complies and bakes the cake for Elijah. The result is that “the jar of flour did not go empty nor the jug of oil run dry” and she ate for a year. In giving all that she had, this woman received all that she needed and more.

The pardox present in our readings is that in order to receive, we have to give. Why does this work…because God will not be outdone in generosity. If we try to hoard and create our own security by constantly taking, then we wind up miserable, no matter how much wealth we might accumulate. If we give and continue give no matter how little we have, then we will never be wanting and we will always be content and happy.

In difficult financial times such as these, it can be easy to say “I don’t have enough money right now to give to the Church, but later I will.” This is not the example given us in the readings. Elijah recognizes that the woman is indeed in a very dire situation, yet he says to her “make me a cake first and then you can fix something for yourself.” To her credit, the woman trusts and is rewarded for her trust. The truth is that God does not need our money, but he wants our trust. No matter how little money we have, there is at least 10% of it that we can give to God “first” so as to grow our trust. How much should we give? The widows in the readings give us and example. It’s really a question of how happy we want to be.

Homily 39 – Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

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

Stewardship is Serious Business

Today’s Gospel tells us of the “unjust steward” who gets in trouble with his master for not doing a good job with his stewardship. This reading is a good opportunity to reflect on just what it means to be a steward. A steward is someone who in charged with the care of someone else’s property. We often describe the use of our time, talent, and treasure as an act of stewardship. This is a fitting word because we should realize that everything we have has been entrusted to us by God. It’s not really ours. We are stewards, caretakers, of the gifts given to us by God. The unjust steward in the Gospel makes the mistake of thinking that the master will not hold him accountable for his stewardship. We need to make sure that we don’t take this attitude with God. He too will one day demand a full accounting of our stewardship.

Homily 38 – Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 5th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Judging When We Should Judge

St. Paul cautions us today about judging our brothers and sisters. If you’ve ever tried to help someone who was doing something harmful to themselves, perhaps you’ve been reminded of this as the person demands that you stop judging them (not that they’re judging you of course). The word the Paul uses for judging would actually be better translated as “condemning.” We shouldn’t presume to know the state of one’s soul. With that having been said, there are plenty of times when we are called to correct our brothers and sisters out of charity. This is one of the spiritual works of mercy after all. The trick is to be careful and make sure that if you’re going to try to help someone that you are really acting out of love…and then try to be thankful when the tables are turned.

Homily 37 – Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

Posted: November 2nd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Recognizing Death as Our Enemy that We Might Rejoice in Victory

Sometimes we try to pretend that death isn’t really all that bad. When a loved one dies we may try to reassure ourselves with the consolation that “they’re in a better place.” We may even think that we should feel happy for them. While it is true that death is not the end and that it is the doorway to eternal life, we should not be so quick to try to put a happy face on death. Death is not simply “a natural part of life” as we sometimes hear. St. Paul tells us that death came through sin. Death was not part of God’s plan. Death is our enemy. We have to understand death as our enemy to fully understand just how wonderful it is that Jesus has saved us. To be saved, you have to be saved from something, and that something is death, a real enemy.

In the light of our Christian faith and the knowledge of the victory won for us in Jesus, we can indeed have hope even in the face of death. Yet, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still grieve. Death presents us with mixed emotions and that is as it should be. Today we mourn for the loss of the physical presence of our departed brothers and sisters and we pray for the repose of their souls. Yet, we mourn as those who have hope. We know that death is not the end. We know that life will be victorious.