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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Posted: November 1st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
One with our Heavenly Friends
Description to come…
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Posted: October 30th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Christians and Jews in God’s Plan
In our first reading at Mass today, St. Paul shows clearly that he never saw himself as having given up being a Jew to be a Christian. Similarly, to be a good Christian today, you really have to understand our Jewish history. As Pope Pius XII once said, “Spiritually, we are all Semites.” In our Catholic liturgy, we continue pray for and revere our Jewish brothers and sisters as “the first to hear the word of God.” Jesus came to fulfill all the the law and prophets foretold, but God did not begin some radical new story with Jesus. Jesus come right in the middle of a story that God had been writing for a very long time. The New Testament is not so much a new story as the next chapter in a very old story.
In light of this, Christians should do all we can first to learn the story of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. Secondly, we should could continue to have great respect for the Jewish people. Sometimes, people wrongly try to blame “Jews” for killing Jesus. This is ridiculous. Not all Jews at the time of Jesus and certainly none of the Jews living today had anything to do with the death of Jesus. Jesus was killed because of our sins. There is no place for anti-Semitism among Christians.
Finally, in our modern world, it is important that we keep separate the religious notion of God’s chosen people Israel and the man-made political state of Israel. Too often, Christians are guilty of supporting the state of Israel in anything it does, no matter how unjust, in a false notion that somehow these are “God’s chosen people.” If it helps, consider that 75% of the “Jews” living in Israel don’t even believe in God yet alone practice their faith; they call themselves “secular Jews.” Then remember that all of the Christians in the Holy Land are Palestinians! While the United States might have good reason to support Israel politically, the religious reasons are far less solid.
St. Paul struggles to maintain both his Jewish and Christian identity. As Christians, we could do well to get in touch with our roots and realize our own Jewishness.
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Posted: October 27th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
The Virtue of Hope
The theological virtue of hope is the virtue that causes us to desire heaven. St. Paul reminds us that no one hopes for something that he already has. Hope keeps us constantly looking forward toward the life to come. This is especially important when life is difficult and we might be tempted toward despair. This life is not all there is and thank God for that. Why do we often struggle so much with lack of hope, with a lack of desire for heaven. Pope Benedict observed in his second encyclical on hope that we often tend to think of heaven as merely a continuation of this present life going on forever. Who would hope for that! Heaven is infinitely greater than anything we can conceive of in this life. Let us ask God to give us an increase in the virtue of hope that we may have a great desire for heaven.
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Posted: October 26th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Keeping Holy the Sabbath
There is a lot of debate about the Sabbath in Scripture as we see in today’s readings. Today, we have almost lost the concept of the Sabbath rest. Why should we rest? Well, the point of the rest was always to remind us of why we work. If we continue to work every day and just do different kinds of work on Sunday, we will soon forget what the work is all about. We will come to think that the work that we do here on earth is our primary goal. Yet, our primary goal is really heaven. When we take a day off from work, we remind ourselves that this world is not what we are working for. This world is passing away. We work in this world with our eyes fixed on the world to come. The Sabbath rest should help us keep this balance right if we practice it faithfully.
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Posted: October 25th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Blindness to the Members of God’s Family
After a long exile in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah brings good news to the Israelites in our first reading today. It’s was time to go back to the promised land! However, he says something very interesting. He says that they were going to be taking the blind, the lame, mothers and women pregnant with children along with them. The journey back to the holy land was a long a difficult one and it would have been tempting to leave the blind and the lame and pregnant women behind. After all, they would just slow everyone else down. God reminds the people that all of these people, especially these marginalized people, were part of his family. God would not allow anyone to be left behind, no matter how much of a “burden” people might have wrongly considered them to be.
A similar thing happens in our Gospel today. Notice where we find the blind man…on the side of the road. He is calling out and the people try to get him to be quiet. They just want him to stay in his place on the side of the road, on the margin. Jesus breaks in as is typical in the Gospel and shows that this blind man is part of his mission and part of his family. Jesus will not allow anyone to be marginalized from the family of God, especially not those who society considers not to have much value.
We continue to do the same things today. We tend to value people more for their use to us and what they can contribute to society. We fail to recognize the dignity of every human person that comes from their being created by God. How often do we hear a child conceived unexpectedly referred to as “unwanted” or a “burden” who is just getting in the way of someone else’s plans. We are currently hearing a lot about how old people at the end of their lives are costing us too much money for all their expensive health care. We make them feel that they are burdens and ask if maybe we couldn’t just leave them behind and “let them die” so we can more easily get on to where it is we think we need to be.
It’s not hard to imagine how Jesus feels about this. To show how important human dignity is, Jesus took on our own human nature. He became one of us and had a special care for those that society considered useless or burdensome. He continues to do so today. He asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” If Jesus, who is God, can have the humility to ask this question, then perhaps we too can find some people by the side of the road in our life and ask them the same question.
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