Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



Help Wanted

April 7th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Can you read and write Italian? If so, please call the New York Times immediately and apply to be their new head of Italian research. Your skills are desperately needed to save the failing newspaper any further embarrassment (good luck with that).

It turns out that much of the false attacks against the Pope initiated by this newspaper were in fact not properly researched (I know…it’s shocking). Apparently they were in such a hurry to find some facts to back up the story they had written that they didn’t even have time to properly translate the key source for their story which happened to be in Italian. Seemingly lacking even one person on a staff of thousands who was fluent in Italian, they instead decided to use “Yahoo translator” to interpret.

Perhaps they also consulted Wikipedia as a source for this story. Thank goodness for journalists who can work to find all the hard facts we normal people could never figure out. Read the sad details below and then say a prayer for the Pope (and maybe think about that job at the NYT).

New York Times Story Based on Gross Translating Error

A Sure Sign of Success for Pope Benedict

April 6th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

When I lived in Lawrence I would often walk along a street where the people had a great devotion to political yard signs. In many of the races, I knew who to vote for…and it was not the people being endorsed on this street. Yet, whenever I had a question about a race, I would go to this street and see who’s names were in their yards. This way I could always figure out who not to vote for. If a person’s name was popular on this street, I could be just about 100% certain that the other candidate was the one I wanted.

I was reminded of this street when I read today the rather silly article that boldly claims that the papacy of Pope Benedict is now officially a failure. If the mainstream media are declaring the Pope to be a failure, I can be just about 100% certain that he is succeeding overwhelmingly. Let us pray for an end to the lies and calumny against the Holy Father, but let us also take courage that all the right people hate him.

I wonder if there is a possibility that a culture given over to all kinds of immorality would have an ulterior motive in trying to undermine the world’s only remaining moral authority. I’m just wondering.

Homily 85 – Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

April 6th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Christ the Lamb Has Saved the Sheep

Easter Sunday and the 8 days that follow (the Octave of Easter) give us a rare treat of an additional chant for Mass. Right before the Alleluia we have the chanting of what is known as a sequence (See the Catholic Encyclopedia article for all the details). Of the four sequences that are still in use in the modern form of the Mass, none is more famous than the Easter sequence, Victimae Paschali Laudes.

Today at Mass I talked through some of my favorite Easter themes found in the sequence. Below is an English translation and the audio of the homily:

Christians, praise the paschal victim!
Offer thankful sacrifice!
Christ the Lamb has saved the sheep,
Christ the just one paid the price,
Reconciling sinners to the Father.
Death and life fought bitterly
For this wondrous victory;
The Lord of life who died reigns glorified!

O Mary, come and say
what you saw at break of day.
“The empty tomb of my living Lord!
I saw Christ Jesus risen and adored!
Bright angels testified,
Shroud and grave clothes side by side!
Yes, Christ my hope rose gloriously.
He goes before you into Galilee.”
Share the good news, sing joyfully:
His death is victory!
Lord Jesus Victor King, show us mercy.

Homily 84 – Good Friday

April 2nd, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Oberammergau Teaches Us to Hope in the Cross

It was the year 1632 and Central Europe was suffering through the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War which had left the people in poverty and disease. The bubonic plague was the silent stalker at the door of ever house. For the tiny village of Oberammergau in southern Germany deaths from the plague rose from 1 per month in October of 1632 to over 20 per month by March 1633.

Faced with the doom of their entire town, the faithful people gathered at the cemetery where so many of their family and friends lay buried in graves all too new. With great trust they came to implore the mercy of God for an end to the plague.

The fruit of their prayer was an inspiration that would make the little town of Oberammergau famous even to this day. In a desperate yet hopeful bargain, the people promised God that if the He saw fit to protect them from the menace of the plague that they would conduct a special passion play in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus to be repeated every 10 years for all time.

Truly these people had experienced a share in the Lord’s passion and it was to the passion of Christ that they looked with hope for deliverance. If the Father could give Jesus victory over death, surely he could help them.

Immediately following this fateful cemetery meeting and the precious vow entered upon therein, the deaths from the plague began to drop dramatically and finally came to a complete end. The people saw clearly the hand of God and the answer to their prayer. God had truly heard them and the people were overjoyed. They knew what they needed to do to express their thanks.

In 1634, these grateful people returned to the cemetery where they had first met in grief two years prior. This time, they met to give thanks. There, over the graves of those who had been taken all too soon by the plague they constructed a small stage and, with many of the townspeople taking part, they performed what they called “A Play of the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ”, the first of what would become known as the now famous Oberammergau passion play.

Perhaps a cemetery is not the place where we would expect so much drama. Yet, what place could be more fitting for entering into this ongoing cosmic battle of life and death. The people of Oberammergau came armed with a story, a story of the victory of the God of life over death.

Today we come to this church armed with the same story. The death of Jesus which we commemorate today causes us to gather in sadness, penance, remorse, and grief. Yet, we know that this same story is also the cause for our hope. Today the cross is our symbol of victory.

A Spiritual Guide to the Triduum Liturgy

April 1st, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Praying With the Rites of Holy Week

As the most holy Three Days of the year begin this evening, I offer the talk I gave last night to those preparing to become Catholic. The Triduum (Latin: three days) begins on the evening of Holy Thursday and ends on the evening of Easter Sunday. During this time we commemorate and experience again the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously the three days on which these events took place mark the most important days of all history, and the most important days of the liturgical year.

This talk was given to highlight some of the spiritual insights to be found in the ritual texts, music, and actions of these days. I hope that you will find this reflection helpful in your own living out of these most holy days. I wish you a Blessed Triduum.

Homily 83 – Palm Sunday

March 28th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Who Would Do Such a Deed?

Today we celebrate both the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as well as his shameful crucifixion and apparent defeat. That’s a lot to handle in one day. In between and among these events we find all the details of betrayal and denial that have become so familiar. We tend to focus on Judas as the traitor. How quick we are to overlook the denial of Peter and the other apostles. Surely they betrayed the Lord as much as Judas. Yet, the difference is that Judas despaired and committed suicide. Peter and the other apostles eventually turned back. Peter became the revered head of the Church just has Jesus had predicted. Jesus knew that those closest to him would abandon him and yet he chose them anyway. Why?

I wonder if perhaps Jesus allowed these major scandals in the beginning to prepare us for the many future scandals that would affect the Church. Maybe he wanted it to be very clear that the Church is his Church and it will thrive not because of the holiness of the members, but because of him. If the early church could overcome the first pope denying that he even knew Jesus, then surely there is no scandal so big that it should ever cause us to despair as Judas did.

Today, we see that not much has changed since to time of the passion. All around we see scandal. The Church in Ireland and Germany is going through something similar to what we experienced in the United States some years ago. We are rightfully ashamed and outraged at the crimes of abuse perpetrated by some priests in those countries. Some people have even falsely accused the Pope himself in much the same way we see Jesus accused. Most of all, we hurt for the victims.

Yes, scandal continues to plague the Church, but we should not be so surprised. All of us have betrayed the Lord through our sins. It is fitting that today we are both part of the crowd that yells “Hosanna” and the later one that yells “Crucify him”. At the Last Supper, when Jesus predicts his betrayal, the apostles respond with shock, “Who would do such a deed?” Perhaps me…perhaps you.

Yet, we need not despair. We know the end of this story. This is the story we celebrate this week and it truly is “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Yes, we humbly admit that we have many times shouted that we prefer Barabbas to Our Lord. But we also know the hope held out for us in Jesus Christ and we will assuredly also be in the crowd a week from today yelling no longer “Crucify him”, but rather, “Alleluia…He is risen.” Let’s have confidence and not give up along the way.

Homily 82 – 5th Sunday of Lent

March 21st, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Top Tips for Being a More Perfect Penitent

Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been to confession. There are lots of reasons that people can fall away from the practice of regular confession. In today’s homily, I focus on some practical tips to make the whole experience less scary. Some are very basic, like what to say and do. Some should be obvious, but often prove difficult. For instance, when you go to confessions, make sure you confess your sins and not those of your spouse! Also, confessions should normally be brief. The priest doesn’t need to know the “story” behind your sin (which often amounts to making excuses to justify ourselves).

Confessions doesn’t have to be complicated or scary. Just come and concisely tell the whole sin…and nothing but the sin. In exchange, God takes them all away and you start over with all the grace you need to be holy. That’s a pretty good deal. Listen to this week’s homily for other tips to make sure you are prepared for this sacrament and for Easter.

Homily 81 – 4th Sunday of Lent

March 14th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Coming to Our Senses

Today’s familiar gospel story of the prodigal son presents us with an important image of life. The first part of the story tells of the tragic movement of the son away from home and away from the love of his father. The second part concerns the beautiful story of repentance and the return home to the loving father’s welcome. Amongst the details of the story, there are many characters and moments that provide much for meditation. However, there is one key moment that perhaps we don’t think enough about; it is that moment when the son chooses to reverse his path and head home. What brings about this important change? St. Luke tells us simply, “Coming to his senses, he thought…”

The key for the prodigal son was being able to stop, realize how far away he was from where he needed to be, and then deciding to do something about it. What if he had never had this moment? Perhaps most of us are not so far away from God as the prodigal son found himself. Yet, if we’re honest, there are probably a least a few ways in which we have to admit that we’re not headed in the right direction. In order to discover these things that stand in the way of our relationship with God we need to do like the prodigal son; we need to take time to stop and realize where we’re at. To do this we need silence. We need to turn off the TV, our computer, cell phone, or iPod. We need to take time to stop, come to our senses, and think.

Homily 80 – Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent

March 8th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Humility Leads to Healing

In today’s first reading, Naaman the Syrian gives us all an example of what we need to do if we desire healing from God. Despite being a high ranking official, he has the humility to admit his weakness and seek help. He perseveres despite being rejected by the king of Israel, passed off to some lowly prophet who won’t even come out to meet him, and then being told to literally go take a flying leap into the Jordan River. With a little help from his friends and great humility on his part, he gains the gift of healing he so desired.

The example of Naaman is a pattern for all of us to follow. Jesus even suggests him to us in today’s gospel. If you want to be healed, you’ve got to recognize your need, be humble enough to seek out God through the means he has established in his Church, and then persevere. Jesus is waiting to heal us, but if we are too proud to come confess our sins, or think that we can do this on our own, then we will experience the sad scene of the gospel; Jesus will walk right through the midst of us and we will miss him.

Homily 79 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

March 7th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Be Aware

In 1521, St. Ignatius of Loyola had a powerful conversion that turned him from a life of worldly dissipation to becoming one of the greatest saints in the Church. The key moment for him came when he was recovering from an injury sustained in the battle of Pamplona. While forced to lay in bed all day he began to read about the life of Jesus and the saints. He wondered if maybe he could do the things they did. Yet, he still loved to dream of battle and romantic conquests. Gradually, he became aware that the thoughts of God brought him a lasting joy whereas the other thoughts brought only momentary pleasure. He then asked the question that would change his life forever, “Why?” This led him to an understanding of the workings of both the good and evil spirits and the writing of his rules for discernment of spirits that continue to bless the Church to this day.

A similar experience happens to Moses in our first reading today. He too becomes aware of something very important. In the movie “The 10 Commandments” Joshua is with Moses but sees nothing special, just “a bush that burns.” Moses, however, not only notices the bush in the first place, but is aware that there is something special about this bush. While burning, it is not consumed. He too asks the question, “Why?” This question is at the heart of all knowledge and learning. The official seal of the University of Kansas actually depicts this famous meeting between God and Moses at the burning bush encircled with the words of Moses which serve as the university’s motto: Videbo visionem hanc magnam, quare non comburatur rubus…”I will see this great vision, why the bush is not burned.”

For both Ignatius and Moses, becoming aware and asking “Why?” ultimately led them to an encounter with the living God. The same can be true for us. How aware are we of the workings of the spirit in our lives? Sadly, we seldom take time for this awareness. Instead, we often try to avoid thinking too much about why we do what we do or feel a certain way. Instead, we try to remain constantly distracted through TV, music, Internet, or a host of other sources of “entertainment.” Often the real reasons behind what we do or how we feel are too painful and so we try to ignore them. Lent is a great time to strip away some of these distractions and allow ourselves to be a little uncomfortable with some silence and to be aware of things that we had maybe been avoiding.

The story of the fig tree in the Gospel shows us what happens if we don’t pay attention to what’s happening in our spiritual life; we will be fruitless and barren. The gardener has the perfect example for us. He realizes that maybe the tree is not producing fruit because no one has paid enough attention to it. He decides to cultivate the soil and fertilize it. That is the great call to us this Lent, to begin paying attention and become aware, to live deliberately. If we do this, as was the case for Ignatius and Moses, we will soon find ourselves in a beautiful and new encounter with God. Yet, the lesson of the fig tree is also that time is limited and results are exected. Don’t put off making the changes you know you need to make. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”