Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



Homily 59 – Wednesday of the 4th Week of Advent

December 23rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Unplanned Pregnancies Saved the World

Today’s gospel tells of the birth of John the Baptist. You might remember the gospel from a few days ago in which little John was described as “leaping for joy” in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary arrived carrying the baby Jesus in her womb. It should be perfectly clear from Scripture that no Christian could ever hold to the lie that babies are nothing more than “tissue” before they are born. These two little ones were not only alive in a natural sense, but even alive in the spiritual sense, responding to the grace of the Holy Spirit.

It is a great irony to think that after Jesus is born, this little baby would be seen as such a threat that Herod would have all the baby boys in Bethlehem murdered. How can a baby threaten anyone? Yet, Herod found the birth of this new “king” to be an inconvenience to his own plans. Jesus would have brought Herod happiness that he never could have planned for; instead he planned to have Jesus killed. Fear and selfishness sometimes cause us to do irrational and even diabolical things.

Unfortunately, the crime of Herod was not the first such incident in history. Pharoh had done a similar deed at the time of Moses. Nor was Herod the last to have such ideas. Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, on the very night when Christians everywhere will gather in prayer to celebrate the birth of a little baby, the United States Senate will instead be meeting to plot for the first time in history to force all tax payers to cooperate in the murder of millions of little babies through the forced public funding of abortion. Not much has changed in 2000 years.

It remains a great sadness today as it was in the time of Moses and Jesus to ever think of a little baby as a threat that needs to be killed. However, the line from the Gospel today that most saddens me with regard to abortion is the observation of the crowd at the birth of John the Baptist, “What then will this child be?” I often pose this question to parents at baptisms. I wonder about the futures of all the little babies lost to abortion. What good were they created to do? What medical cures and scientific discoveries have been lost? Perhaps someone destined to be one of the greatest saints in the Church has been aborted.

In history God has often used the birth of a baby to bring about his plans. Often this was through what we would call today an “unplanned pregnancy.” To Mary and Joseph, no preganacy could have seemed more unplanned that Jesus’, yet God had planned it from all eternity. The same is true of any baby conceived today. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy we need to ask, “What then will this child be?” Let’s pray that the Senate will change their minds and go home for Christmas to celebrate the birth of a little baby who saved the world.

Homily 58 – Monday of the 4th Week of Advent

December 21st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Christmas and the Solstice

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, one of the rather nice connections with Christmas and the natural world is that the celebration of Our Lord’s birth takes place just after the annual winter solstice. This is the darkest day of the year. Christmas is therefore just after this darkest time when the the light is just starting to increase each day. Obviously, the all of our brothers and sisters in the southern hemisphere things are quite different, but up north this connection with light and darkness is a nice addition.

However, a problem arrises when people claim that the celebration of Christmas was all made up as a replacement for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The truth is that the exact reason for December 25th being the day of Jesus’ birth is not completely clear. There is, however, some good evidence to show that long before the celebration of Christmas, the Church celebrated the Annunciation on March 25th. Add nine months and the you can see that the date of Christmas was set based on this (I always assumed it was the other way around). Whatever the reason for the date, we celebrate the true light coming into the world as God became man. Now that’s a lot more to celebrate than just the revolving of the earth around the sun.

Homily 57 – 4th Sunday of Advent

December 20th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Spouse of the Holy Spirit

We often overlook the person of the Holy Spirit and his role in the Christmas story. The Father and the Son seem a bit more tangible to us in general. The Holy Spirit can be rather enigmatic. On this last Sunday of Advent, perhaps one way to make the third person of the Trinity a little more real is to remember that Mary is often referred to as the spouse of the Holy Spirit.

I often speak at weddings of how the love expressed in marriage has certain important qualities that make it unique. Married love is marked by four key characteristics; it is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. The relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit ought to then exhibit these same characteristics. Mary gave a free assent to God’s plan. She held nothing back and gave a total gift of herself to serve God. She was faithful to the Spirit’s leading, even when she didn’t understand. The result was that, although she remained a virgin her entire life, the Spirit made her fruitful. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the love of God incarnate, the fruit of the spousal union of Mary and the Spirit.

Mother Theresa reminded us that the surest sign of the presence of the Spirit is joy. This is what we see in Mary. After being told that she is to be the mother of God, she goes with haste to visit Elizabeth and take care of her needs. The joy of the Spirit makes even difficult tasks easy. Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit and John the Baptist leaps for joy in her womb. If we find that we are lacking in joy this Christmas, maybe we need to pay more attention to the Holy Spirit and our union with God. We too are called to give ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to God. If we do, the end result is clear; we will have joy.

Homily 56 – Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent

December 18th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A Date With History

In the ancient world, years were often reckoned according to the reign of the current leader. The current year might be given as “The 7th year of the reign of Octavian” or “The 8th year of Augustus”. For the past 2000 years, we have derived our calendar year from the birthof Jesus. Our readings today prophesy about this event that would so change the understanding of God that his title and even the calendar would have to change as a result. Despite attempts to remove Jesus from our culture and our calendar, his birth remains single most important event in history, the date on which God became man.

Homily 55 – Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent

December 14th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A Star to Guide Our Way

Today’s first reading tells of the little known prophet Balaam. He is best known for his prophecy foretelling that “A star shall advance from Jacob.” This prophecy is often interpreted as referring in part to the star of Bethlehem seen at the birth of Jesus. The readings today remind us that God has a plan for all of history. If we are going to find fulfilment and happiness then we need to conform our lives to that plan. We need to follow the star.

Homily 54 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

December 13th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Change Your Minds

On this third Sunday of Advent we hear the great cry of John the Baptist, “Repent!” The word in the original Greek comes from meta, meaning a change, and noete, a command referring to the mind, the nous. So the word repent literally means “Change your minds.” When I looked it up in the dictionary I found that the full definition referred to “A change of mind leading to a change in action.” That is what we are called to do in this third week of Advent, to think differently so as to act differently.

This past week I had the rather sad occasion to baptize and confirm the little baby of our youth ministers, Bryce and Angela. It was sad because little Corrigan was born at only 23 weeks and lived for only about an hour after his birth. It is easy in these situations to wonder just what God is doing. We trust that He always brings good out of everything, but sometimes it’s hard to see. In this situation, however, it didn’t take long to receive some amazing grace from God.

I first have to say that Bryce and Angela themselves are amazing. They truly “thought differently” about this situation. While they were certainly sad at the death of their son, they also found cause to rejoice that they had a saint in heaven. Since Corrigan was baptized and confirmed before he died, we know that he is in heaven. The truly amazing part of this story is that it didn’t take very long for Corrigan to start working miracles.

One of Angela’s grade school friends saw a picture that Bryce and Angela put on the internet with them holding Corrigan. It turns out that the friend was also 23 weeks pregnant and had made an appointment to have an abortion. Seeing the picture of little Corrigan caused her to have a profound change of mind. She canceled her abortion appointment, and instead called a real doctor and scheduled an ultrasound. She has now decided to keep her baby. A change of mind leading to a change of action.

The end result of repentance leads to the other focus of this day, rejoicing. Whenever we change our minds and begin to act in accord with the plans of God we will find great joy, no matter what obstacles may come. In this third week of Advent, let us look carefully at the ways that we need to change our minds, to repent, so that we can then fully rejoice at Christmas.

Homily 53 – Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent

December 11th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Being in Tune with God

The Gospel today speaks of children who are upset because people aren’t dancing along with the various tunes they are playing. Society plays many tunes for us and often we do in fact dance right along without giving much thought. It’s just easier to go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. If we refuse we get singled out like those mentioned in the Gospel. Yet, this is what we are called to do. Let’s be careful who’s music we’re following. Let’s try to stay in tune with God.

Homily 52 – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

December 8th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Catholic Predestination

We might think of predestination as a Calvinist idea that rightly no Christian could hold. While this is true of Calvin’s and many Protestant understandings of predestination, there is a clear teaching on predestination that Christians can find acceptable. Our readings speak of this today. God has predestined each of us for holiness. We were made to be with him forever in heaven. We celebrate Mary’s immaculate conception today as a sign of what we are all called to be. We are all called to be free from sin. This is the gift given us in baptism and restored in the sacrament of penance. Withe the Blessed Mother as our example let us all realize our common destiny, to be holy and to be with God forever in heaven.

Homily 51 – Memorial of St. Ambrose

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

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.