Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 16 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 23rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Finding Freedom Through Commitment

We are so blessed in this country to have many choices. We have the freedom to choose everything from where we worship, where we live, and even what we eat. Yet, all these choices can lead us to a sort of paralysis of decision. What should I choose? We are experiencing in our society what might be called a crisis of commitment. Some people think that maintaining our freedom means “keeping all our options open.” However, you probably can’t think of anyone whom you admire who is famous for “keeping all their options open” and going through life without committing to anything. Rather it is precisely our commitments in life that define who were are.

Our readings this weekend are all about these two things: choices and commitment. In the first reading, Joshua and the Israelites boldly choose to worship the true God. In our second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the beautiful commitment expressed in marriage. Husband and wife joyfully commit to each other in marriage and thus become “subordinate,” ordered to each other, or “submissive,” under a common mission. Does such a commitment close the door on some options…yes, but the result is not a lessening of freedom, but the finding of a new and greater freedom. Once you are in your vocation there is a great freedom knowing where your life is going and with whom.

In the Gospel, Jesus asks for a commitment of his disciples. He gives them the choice of accepting his teaching or parting ways. Sadly, St. John tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples left him. We might think that perhaps there was a misunderstanding, but then Jesus turns to the apostles and is willing to let them go too if they can’t commit to what he is asking. What could be so important that Jesus would allow everyone to leave if they can’t accept it? It’s the Eucharist! Jesus has just told his disciples that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. Those who were there understood Jesus literally and Jesus made it plain to them that he was not speaking symbolically. Thus many leave rather than trust in his words. The Eucharist is the sacred sign of total commitment to Jesus and of being his follower.

Today Jesus requires no less of a commitment from us if we are going to receive him in the Eucharist. St. Paul uses the image of marriage to describe the love that should exist between us and Jesus. Just as you can’t get married half way or choose only certain things of your spouse that you will marry, so you can’t take only part of what Jesus teaches and still be a member of his Church. Jesus wants a total commitment from us, a commitment that is expressed in our eating his body and drinking his blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is where we become one flesh with Jesus in the marriage banquet celebrated at every Mass. Today we renew the wedding vows made to God in Holy Baptism and are then invited to share in the wedding supper of the lamb. What a beautiful choice.

Homily 15 – Memorial of St. Pius X

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

God Works Through the Unexpected

Today and tomorrow our first readings are taken from the Old Testament book of Ruth. This short book tells the story of a very important person in God’s plan of salvation. Every year during Advent we read what seems to be that rather long and boring geneology of Jesus. “So and so begat so and so” and on and on and on until we are finally relieved to arrive at Jesus. In St. Matthew’s geneology it is of particular importance that he includes several women in the list. This would not have been expected and the women he includes are equally unexpected. Ruth is one of those women.

The inclusion of Ruth in God’s plan of slavation is interesting because Ruth is not even an Israelite. She is of the clan of Moab. However, through God’s providence she ends up converting to the faith of Israel and marries Boaz of Bethlehem. Together they have a son named Obed who then becomes the father of Jesse who is of course the father of King David. God has always worked in the unexpected and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that true in our own lives. God took a poor Moabite girl and made her the great grandmother of the most famous king in the history of Israel. Imagine what God might be doing with the unexpected events in your life!

Homily 14 – Memorial of St. John Eudes

Posted: August 19th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Need for Personal Lawncare

The classic 1954 movie “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando has a scene that is very similar to today’s gospel. All the longshoremen show up at the docks in the morning hoping to get work. The foreman comes out and picks from all those present. Some are chosen for work that day and others have to go home perhaps with no food with which to feed their families, hoping to try again tomorrow. The landowner in the gospel does something strange though. He keeps going back to get more workers. It doesn’t seem that he needs them, but he just can’t bear the thought of them going home with nothing. This is a great image for God. He keeps calling us. It doesn’t matter how early or late we get called; we just need to go.

Notice also the fiasco at the end of the day. The workers that were chosen first should be happy that they had work that day. Instead they start to look around at what others get and they become angry. The lesson here is that we need to stop comparing ourselves with others. How often do we find ourselves content with life and then we get distracted by trying to “keep up with the Jones’?” We often lose the happiness we should have from our unique call from God by comparing ourselves with others. If you find yourself thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, maybe it’s time to start watering your own lawn.

More on the Lanciano Miracle

Posted: August 18th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This weekend I spoke in my homily about the famous Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano that occurred in 750 in Italy. Many people have asked for more information. You can certainly search the internet for “Lanciano” and you’ll find plenty. I thought I might draw your attention to a video that I saw recently that was new even to me. The video is of a presentation given by a doctor who I believe was an atheist and converted to Catholicism after the experience he describes.

A Eucharistic miracle similar to the one I described in Lanciano apparently took place in Buenos Aires in the 1990’s. I mentioned that there have been many other miracles like Lanciano over the years, so I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear of one in Buenos Aires. What struck me about this particular presentation were some key similarities between the known miracle in Lanciano and this new one in Argentina.

Apparently a consecrated host began to show signs of a sort of bleeding. The doctor indicates that he gave a sample to be tested by multiple independent doctors who didn’t know where the sample came from. They each reported the same conclusion, that the sample was from a human heart. Additionally, they also reported that the tissue showed the strange sign of responding as living tissue and was actually beating.

I was of course noticing that all of this sounded very similar to what was found with the Lanciano miracle. The speaker then goes on to mention the Lanciano miracle and he too notes the similarities. Then he says something that really made me stop for a second. I don’t fully get the details from the video, but apparently he was able to compare his results with the results of the doctor who did the Lanciano investigation and they were able to determine from the DNA that the samples from Lanciano from 750 and from Argentina in 1996 are from the same person!

I always knew that the blood type of the Lanciano sample was found to be AB and that this matched the blood type from the blood on the famous Shroud of Turin, also AB. However, being able to link this miracle in Buenos Aires to Lanciano as being not just the same blood type but matching DNA of the same person…well that’s really something now. Does anyone have more info on this connection or more official scientific results? The video is certainly worth a watch and I’d like to find out more myself.

Watch the Video

One of Many Websites with Info on Lanciano

Homily 13 – Tuesday of the 20th Week in Orinary Time

Posted: August 18th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Making the Right Choice

One of the things we Americans love most is our freedom and our ability to make choices. Yet, sometimes having to make choices can be very difficult. The rich young man in yesterday’s gospel is given the special call to leave everything an follow Jesus and yet he chooses to hang on to his worldly possessions instead. What a tragic choice. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that it is very hard for a rich man to enter heaven. In some ways, being poor can have advantages. If you don’t have money, you don’t even have the option of buying a bunch of stuff.

For those of us that live somewhere in between poverty and riches, our lives are much more complicated. Should I buy that TV or give some money to the Church? The ultimate lesson from the gospel over the last two days is not that material possessions are bad and that rich people don’t go to heaven. Rather, we need to have the right balance and know what is really important. The question is, are we detached enough to recognize when something is more important than material wealth? Is there anything in this world that is keeping us from having our eyes fixed on the world to come? May God teach us to judge wisely the things of earth and to love the things of heaven.

Homily 12 – Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 17th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Sadness of Being Ordinary

When the Israelites finally enter the promised land, their mission was to be an example to the pagan people they encounter (or else, in some scriptures, kill them all less they become a temptation). They are supposed to show them the worship of the true God. However, they soon give in to the temptation that keeps so many from achieving the greatness to which they are called; they decide that it is easier to just be like everyone else. They start worshiping false gods and sacrificing even their children to idols. They give up their identity as God’s chosen people to be just ordinary.

This is one of the greatest temptations that afflicts the Church to this day. Not long ago, you could tell who was Catholic apart from the rest. We had a unique identity. Now, in so many ways, Catholics are “just like every body else.” Abortion, contraception, divorce…Catholics are almost indistinguishable now from the general population. We’ve given up our special mission to be salt and light and to convert the world and have instead allowed the world to convert us. The rich young man in the gospel today is given the special call to follow Jesus if he will only detach himself from the worldly ways represented by his possessions. Unfortunately, he says no to Jesus’ invitation and goes away sad. Will we continue to try to be just ordinary, like everyone else? What will be our answer to Jesus’ invitation?

Homily 11 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

In today’s gospel, Jesus commands us to eat his body and drink his blood. He tells us that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink. This seems to be such a strange teaching. We often ask, as those in the gospel did, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Perhaps a better question to consider first is, “Why would Jesus give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus tells us in the gospel that he wants to “remain” in us and wants us to “remain” in him. Jesus wants to be as close to us as possible! It is important to remember that we are not purely spiritual beings, but rather we are body and soul. We experience the world through our bodies as part of who we are. If Jesus wants to remain with us, he can’t do this in some purely spiritual and abstract way. Rather he remains with us in a way that is tangible to our body and our soul. If Jesus wants to be as close to us as possible, what could be closer than the very food we eat that becomes part of us?

This is why Jesus gives us his flesh to eat, but the question “how?” remains a difficult one. It is indeed a mystery, yet we need some language to talk about it. The Church has found use in the philosophical term “transubstantiation.” Simply put, it means that the appearances of bread and wine, the “accidents”, remain but the thing itself, the “substance”, is changed into the body and blood of Christ. If that helps…great, but you don’t have to be a philosopher to understand the Eucharist. Before the consecration we have normal bread and wine on the altar. When the priest in the name of Jesus says “This is my body” and “This is my blood” we now have the body and blood of Christ really present. Only the appearances of bread and wine remain. It is a great mystery, but ultimately we believe it because Jesus said it and we trust him. He loves us so much that he wants to be as close to us possible, even becoming our very food. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

Homily 10 – Solemnity of the Assumption

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

Our Bodies Are Holy and Destined for Heaven

[This homily was given at the archdiocesan Pro-Life Mass held each month at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Kansas City, KS]

After the tragedy of World War II, many people were rightly shaken by the images taken upon the liberation of the concentration camps. Pictures of piles of human corpses and mass graves led many to despair and question, “Is this all the human body is really worth?” It was in view of this that Pope Pius XII asked the world’s bishops if they felt that the time was opportune to proclaim solemnly the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. While the Church had always believed this truth of the faith from the earliest days, in 1950 this dogma was offered to the world to reassure us of the dignity of the body. Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven as a foreshadowing of the truth that all of us will one day raised from the dead, body and soul.

The modern tragedy of abortion has once again filled our world with piles of bodies and people are tempted to despair and question, “Is this all a person is, just a bunch of insignificant tissue to be thrown away?” Mary’s assumption assures us today as it did the world in 1950 that the body is sacred. One could hardly ask for a better Pro-Life Gospel than the Gospel of today’s Mass. The pre-born John the Baptist leaps in the womb of Elizabeth has be encounters the person of Jesus, also pre-born in his mother Mary. How could any Christian claim that babies in their mothers’ wombs are not people! We invoke Mary’s intercession today to pray for a greater respect for all human life and a renewed awe that our bodies are holy and destined for heaven.

Homily 9 – Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Posted: August 12th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Tending Well the Fire of God

The antiphon for today’s psalm exclaims, “Blessed be God who filled my soul with fire!” We often used this image of fire to describe the presence and love of God. Jesus tells us that he came to set the world on fire. The Holy Spirit came in tongues of flame at Pentecost. In today’s first reading we see the the eyes of Moses remained undimmed at the age of 120, still filled with the fire of so many face to face encounters with God. While fires can sometimes be large and rage out of control, the fire that is the presence of God within us is much more like a small watch fire. A small fire has to be carefully tended and little sticks have to be added frequently to feed it. That’s a good image for the spiritual life in all of us. We have to carefully tend this gift of God’s presence and feed it often. St. Jane Frances de Chantal knew this is and is a beautiful example of tending carefully the spiritual life. May we all be diligent in keeping the flame of God’s love alive in our hearts.

Hayden Faculty Retreat 2009 – Talk 3

Posted: August 10th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lessons from the Lunar Landing
2009 Hayden Faculty Fall Retreat

Talk 3

How?

Saturn V Launch of Apollo 11

“Today, they’re shocked when the shuttle doesn’t work every time, but they were always surprised when the Saturn V did.”
- Neil Armstrong

“Each of the components of our hardware were designed to certain reliability specifications, and far the majority, to my recollection, had a reliability requirement of 0.99996, which means that you have four failures in 100,000 operations. I’ve been told that if every component met its reliability specification precisely, that a typical Apollo flight would have about [1,000] separate identifiable failures. In fact, we had more like 150 failures per flight, better than statistical methods would tell you that you might have. I can only attribute that to the fact that every guy in the project, every guy at the bench building something, every assembler, every inspector, every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault, because my part is going to be better than I have to make it.’ …And that’s the only reason we could have pulled this whole thing off.”
- Neil Armstrong

“I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.”
- John Henry Cardinal Newman

“We stretch ourselves, and what we learn yields broad benefits.”
- Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator

“A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said, ‘Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water.’”
- Matthew 17:14

Closing Thoughts

The journey to heaven is even more exciting than the journey to the moon. We need leaders who know where we’re going to inspire us. How well do you know God’s story? Are you prepared for the challenge?

The crew of Apollo 8 expected to find the moon. Instead they found the earth and, ultimately, God. Can you help your students to find God where they weren’t looking?

400,000 people worked on the Apollo program to make “one small step” possible. Do you recognize the importance of your role? Will you do your part?

So Long from the Moon