Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 24 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Be Open to Hear the Word of God

We all know that Jesus performed many healings in his public ministry, most of which were not recorded anywhere. Why then, among all these, did St. Mark choose to tell us about the healing of the deaf and mute man in the Gospel today? For one thing, the Greek word for “mute” is used in only two places in all of Scripture, in the Gospel and in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah tells us that when the Messiah comes he will restore sight to the blind, restore hearing to the deaf, and the “mute” will sing. Mark is clearly telling us that Jesus fulfills this passage and is the Messiah.

However, both St. Mark and the early Church often made use of this healing for another reason. It is a symbolic model of the process of evangelization, or spreading the “good news” about Jesus. The apostles heard the Word of God and then went out and spoke about it to everyone. These people heard the apostles preaching and they in turn went and spoke about it to all their friends. Eventually the good news reached the entire world.

Today, however, we are in danger of losing the faith that the apostles gave their lives to hand on. Many people are abandoning the faith. For this reason, John Paul II called us to what he termed a “New Evangelization.” We’ve got to start this process of hearing and speaking all over again. When we hear the term “New Evangelization” we might immediately think about going out and speaking more about the faith. This is backward. The reason we are not speaking the Word of God well is because we are not hearing it well.

It is common that when a man goes deaf he will ultimately develop a speech impediment because he can’t hear. The Church is suffering from a sort of spiritual speech impediment and the cure can only come from learning the hear again. Jesus first heals the man’s hearing and then frees his tongue. The same will be true for the New Evangelization. The Good News is that God so loved the world that he sent his only son that we might have life. That’s really great news, but most of us are not “hearing” it and hence are not sharing it.

In order to heal the deaf and mute man in the Gospel, Jesus had to take him away from the crowd. Maybe God is calling you to come away, to leave what is comfortable so that he can help you to hear the Good News. Jesus could have just willed that the man be healed, but instead he touched him. He put his fingers in his ears and spit on his tongue. He then spoke a seemingly magic word…ephphatha. It means “be open” in Jesus’ native Aramaic. Jesus wants to touch each of us as well and allow us to hear clearly so that we may speak clearly. What next step is God asking you to take? Whatever it is, hear Jesus saying ephphatha…that is…be open.

Wisdom from Webb

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

Homily 23 – Saturday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

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

Being With Jesus

In today’s Gospel the Pharisees criticize the apostles for picking heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath. Jesus responds by reminding them of the time that the army of Israel violated the law by eating the bread of the temple that only the priests could eat. What do these stories have in common? In the story of the army eating the temple bread, Jesus reminds them that it was King David himself who led this supposed violation of the law. You can imagine that if some general of the army had showed up at the temple with such a request that he probably wouldn’t have gotten very far. Yet, when the king shows up…well who is going to say no to the king?

Obviously, it makes a difference who you are with. David had authority over the laws of the temple and could allow the men who were with him to eat the sacred bread. In just the same way, Jesus claims that he is “lord of the Sabbath” and has the authority to allow the men who are with him to “harvest” grain on the Sabbath. This is an amazing claim if you think about it.

If we remember back to yesterdays’ Gospel, the Pharisees wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus didn’t fast. He replied that they were “with the bridegroom” and thus it was not the time for fasting. Today, Jesus reminds us of the special privileges of those who were “with King David” and, most significantly, the special privileges of those who are “with him.” Do we realize that we too are “with Jesus?” We are his special friends. This allows us the freedom not to arbitrarily violate the Sabbath, but rather to live out what the Sabbath was always meant to be about. We get to spend time resting “with Jesus.”

Homily 22 – Friday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 4th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Image of the Love of God

We often hear that “God is love.” Yet, this can be a hard thing to understand in the abstract. Love is a concrete thing manifested by tangible actions. Until the time of Jesus, God revealed himself through sacred words and deeds in history. Yet, the greatest revelation of God was when he became one of us and came in person to show us how much he loves us. St. Paul tells us in the 1st reading this morning that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” If we want to know what God’s love is like, we just look at Jesus and see the way he loved people. Since Jesus is God he shows each of us in person the perfect image of the love of God. The call to us as Christians is that we too are called to be an image of the love of God to our neighbor. How well do we reflect the love of God to others in our daily lives?

IVF Creates Dilemma God Never Intended

Posted: September 3rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This piece at CNN caught my attention:

What happens to extra embryos after IVF?

The article concerns the moral struggle that people find themselves in after having conceived using in vitro fertilization (IVF). Not surprisingly, when we choose to violate God’s laws there are unintended consequences. Such consequences of IVF include hundreds of thousands of babies frozen in laboratory freezers indefinitely. In order to achieve one successful pregnancy using IVF, multiple eggs are fertilized, leaving “extra” children, sadly referred to as “left overs” in the article.

Many good people who struggle with infertility can fall into the lure of IVF if they are not made aware of the serious evil of this process. They then realize the moral problem they’ve created when they have these “extra” children that require a decision as to their fate. The article is about this struggle and some possible options. It really shouldn’t be so surprising that we find life seeming less and less special, or dare we say “sacred,” when we now have so many people who are mere “left overs.”

See the Pope Paul VI Institute and their site on NaProTechnology for fertility care information and morally positive alternatives to IVF.

Subsidiarity and Health Care Reform

Posted: September 3rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City/St. Joseph have released a joint pastoral statement on health care reform. See the full text of this letter here:

Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform

One of the key issues addressed is a principle of Catholic social justice teaching known as the principle of subsidiarity.

The statement summarizes as follows:

“Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives. (See: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ## 185ff.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1883) The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care.”

The Catholic social justice principle of respect for the dignity of each human person rightly causes us to advocate for health care for all, as our bishops strongly support. However, the principle of subsidiarity not only allows but even encourages us to be very afraid of the idea of the government running our health care system. The entire Catholic hospital system was established under the principle of subsidiarity. Individual people and communities see a need and do something about it. You don’t wait for or expect that someone else, especially the government, will come in and do it for you.

Today, we not only expect that the government will fix all our problems, but we have the sad delusion that somehow only the government could really do the best job. It is too often the case that we have lost a sense of solidarity and community with those around us and no longer take personal responsibility for ourselves, yet alone our neighbor. We need health care reform, but more than that we need reform in personal responsibility.

There is no magic government money tree to fund stimulus packages, bailouts, cash for clunkers, or any other spending program. The government has no money; it has only your money and my money. Further, the government has no power other than what has been entrusted to it by the people through the constitution. The founding fathers were terrified of a large central government. Partly, they had pride in taking care of themselves and didn’t want to be dependent on anyone else. More importantly, they knew from experience that power ultimately corrupts. At best, they didn’t want some big central bureaucracy making decisions for them that were better made closer to home. Thus we find the principle of subsidiarity in the framework of our government.

Nowhere in constitution did we ever give the government the power to take over the health care industry. We all need to look for solutions to how we can have affordable health care for all, but the government is not the answer. You and I are the answer. That is the principle of subsidiarity.

The Good Word on Kennedy, Eulogies, and Catholic Funerals

Posted: September 1st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Cardinal O'Malley Incenses the Body of Edward Kennedy

This past weekend’s funeral Mass for Sen. Edward Kennedy has been the cause of scandal for many people, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Many question whether or not Sen. Kennedy should have been given the “honor” of a Catholic funeral. Given that no lawmaker ever did more to champion the cause of abortion on demand than Sen. Kennedy, it is understandable that people would be concerned that he would not be eligible for a Catholic funeral. If he had not repented from his position this would in fact be the case. However, the Church allows that, if one repents at the end of one’s life, he or she is entitled to Christian burial. It appears that Sen. Kennedy did call for a priest at the end of his life and did receive the sacraments. While this is certainly not the public repentance demanded by the very public sins of his life, the Church is very lenient and errs on the side of mercy if there exists even minimal evidence of “repentance.” I therefore concur with notable canon lawyer Ed Peters that Sen. Kennedy was entitled to a Catholic funeral Mass (go here for detailed information why).

That having been said, I do believe that the funeral Mass was a huge scandal. The reason the Church is lenient in allowing Christian burial for even minimally repentant public sinners is precisely because the central purpose of the funeral Mass is to implore God’s mercy for the deceased. To a point, you could say the bigger the sinner, the more appropriate a funeral Mass would be. Having a funeral Mass is in not intended to “honor” the person. The sadness of this particular funeral was that someone who very much needed our prayers instead received only praise. Tragically, the uncharitable pretended ignorance of the man’s grave sins cost him the one thing that could have really helped him, the potential prayers of thousands.

Perhaps the most serious scandal of this funeral Mass was that all this praise being heaped upon Sen. Kennedy was really not for him at all. The real purpose of so much show and ceremony was to provide reassurance to all those Catholics who, like Kennedy, reject the teaching authority of the Church. Can you still be a “good Catholic” and be in favor of abortion? Apparently. To the average person, here was “the Church” heaping countless praises upon the champion of abortion, homosexual activity, and scores of other moral outrages that the Church is supposedly against. What clearer teaching could there be? Actions speak louder than words.

Again, I am not saying that there shouldn’t have been a funeral Mass. I even think it should have been every bit as big and public as it was. I just wish it would have actually been a Catholic funeral Mass. What took place in Boston this weekend was a secular funeral shoved into a Catholic church. I actually hoped that the Cardinal would in fact preach and would use well the “teachable moment.” So many so-called Catholic politicians are leading lives in the same disastrous state as Sen. Kennedy. Here was a perfect opportunity to truly exercise the “care of souls” in an urgently needed way. Instead, more fuel was added to the already blazing scandal of Catholics in political life.

Might I suggest that much of the scandal of this weekend would have been avoided if an actual Catholic funeral Mass would have been celebrated according to the instructions for such a Mass. As I said, the central focus of the Mass is to pray for mercy upon the deceased. This is done with time-honored prayers and chants. The one thing that is not at all characteristic of a Catholic funeral is a speech. The Mass is for prayer, not making speeches, eulogies, remembrances, or whatever else you want to throw in. The instructions for the funeral Mass are clear:

“At the funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #382)

Why were there not just one, but three eulogies at this so-called “funeral Mass?” Why were the General Intercessions perverted into political statements quoted from political speeches? The list of abuses goes on and on. If you just follow the instructions for Mass, most of what took place this weekend would not have happened.

The ancient counsel of the Church is evident here; lex orandi, lex credendi– the way we pray reflects and shapes what we believe. The manner of prayer this weekend (if you could call it prayer) clearly states that we believe that the good deeds done in life are sufficient to outweigh any sins, no matter how great and, most tragically, that the dead do not need our prayers. That is obviously what the people assembled in Boston believed as evidenced by how they prayed. The final scandal is to think about how people might have been helped to believe correctly if they had just prayed correctly.

May the soul of Edward Kennedy and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Homily 21 – Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 31st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Catholic Rapture

Perhaps you’ve heard various Protestant groups refer to something they call “The Rapture.” It can all be rather confusing as they speak of hoping to be “raptured” away from this life and speeded away to heaven. Catholics naturally back away from this idea of “rapture” because it doesn’t sound like anything Jesus every talked about nor anything the Fathers of the Church mentioned. While most of the Protestant understanding of rapture is based on misreading the Bible, there is a biblical idea of rapture.

In the first reading today, St. Paul speaks of the final judgement and the last day at the end of time. All those who have died will of course rise from the dead. But what about those who are still alive at the second coming? These, St. Paul says, will be “caught up” (in Greek…”raptured”) to meet Jesus in the air. So, yes, Catholics believe in a rapture. The problem is that the Protestant notion takes this idea and combines it with the teaching in Revelation that there will be a “thousand year” period of “tribulation” before the end of the world.

The Protestant belief is that those who are “good” should not have to undergo this tribulation and thus will be “raptured” out of the world ahead of time. Obviously this is not scriptural and denies a key part of Christianity. “In the world you will have tribulation, but have courage, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus is not going to save us from this world by preventing our suffering. Rather he gives meaning to our suffering. If we fight the good fight through this life as St. Paul did, then we will indeed be with Jesus on the last day. That will be a truly, and biblically sound, rapturous day.

Homily 20 – Memorial of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Posted: August 29th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Uncomfortable Call of the Prophet

We often think of a prophet as someone who foretells the future. Yet, the primary job of a prophet is to speak not about the future, but about what is going on right now. The prophet stands in the midst of the present situation and is able to see things with God’s eyes and boldly speak out, “Thus says the Lord!”

The truth is that we really don’t like prophets very much. We tend to want to settle into a pattern of life that is comfortable and little by little we compromise with the societal forces around us. It’s easy to just keep on going this way, like the proverbial frog in the pot as the water keeps getting hotter and hotter. The prophet is the one who breaks in and disrupts this status quo.

John the Baptist was called “The greatest of all prophets” by Our Lord. It was finally his preaching against divorce and remarriage that led to his execution which we commemorate today. As the temperature in the pot continues to rise all around us today, we could use a few good prophets like St. John the Baptist. We are kind of in comfort mode right now, compromising our prophetic role for the sake of “political correctness” or mistaken ideas of being “pastoral.” Are there some prophets out there who are willing to stand up and call us to jump out of the pot?

Homily 19 – Memorial of St. Augustine

Posted: August 28th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Learning from the Life of St. Augustine

Today we celebrate a saint that had perhaps the most famous conversion in the history of the Church. Yet, there were many other people that helped St. Augustine to finally turn back to God. First, his mother, Monica, raised him well and taught him the faith from an early age. Second, in adulthood St. Augustine needed another teacher who could help his adult mind to come to a deeper insight into the faith. Augustine found this kind of teacher in St. Ambrose who was instrumental in his conversion. Finally, the thing most responsible for this famous conversion was grace. Augustine went on to to write so much on God’s free gift of grace. It is a gift that Augustine knew well in his own life and is God’s gift to all of us.