Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



Homily 341 – You Hypocrite – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 29th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

HypocriteHave you ever had the experience of standing up for some true but difficult teaching of Jesus, only to have someone call you a hypocrite because of your own failures? This is a common tactic of society and our enemy the Devil. Yet, to be a hypocrite means that you say one thing and don’t really believe it. You’re not a hypocrite to say that something is true and that we ought to do and yet come up short in living it out. This is the every day experience of the Christian life. We know what we should do, but we fail to do it. This doesn’t make us hypocrites; it makes us sinners and in need of saving.

This is what St. Paul in telling the Corinthians today. Do you feel insignificant and weak when it comes to living the faith? Good… that’s the kind of stuff God can work with. It’s the weak that know they need saving. So don’t get down about your weaknesses, and certainly don’t stop proclaiming the truth just because you fail. The work of your sanctification belongs to Jesus. Therefore, humbly admit your weakness and boast not in yourself, but boast in God.

Keep reminding yourself, “I’m not what I want to be… but I’m not what I was.” God’s grace is at work on your weaknesses. He will use your weaknesses to bring others to himself. After all, who would want to be Christian if you had to be perfect? No one could do it. As Pope Francis reminds us, the Church is a field hospital for sinners. Are you a miserable sinner whose life is in need of saving? Great… go find someone else like that and bring them along with you to meet the Savior. As the beatitudes remind us, it’s the poor and meek, the weak ones, who end up blessed.

So the next time you get called a hypocrite for standing up for the faith, remind yourself that you’re not. You’re not what you want to be, but you’re not what you were. And if you get insulted and persecuted and called names, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Homily 340 – Passion for the Christ – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 22nd, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

ProtestIn today’s second reading, St. Paul is dealing with a particularly troubling problem in Corinth. The members of the Church have broken down into factions and are choosing sides. Sound familiar? After all the political factions and fighting we’ve seen over the last year, perhaps we might wonder if it has to be this way. Looking at the reading, we see that the Corinthians had actually broken down into fighting over who was the more important apostle. It sounds almost silly, but we see how easy it is for us to break into groups and try to find someone to fight against.

There is something that we need to be fighting for, and that is for the salvation of our souls. The devil loves to divert attention from the real battle and instead have us fight trivial battles of no lasting consequence. Might I suggest that maybe it’s time for a little break from politics? When you find yourself getting all worked up over something, ask yourself how consequential this really is for your eternal salvation. Does it really require your attention and effort. The truth is, we are called to be passionate. Just make sure that you’re passionate about something that is worthy.

Homily 339 – What’s on Your Calendar? – Epiphany

January 8th, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

January 1stToday we celebrate the Epiphany, or “manifestation,” of Jesus. Represented symbolically by the arrival of the gentile magi, Jesus is now made known to all the world. A tradition on this day of manifestation is to make manifest the date of Easter for the upcoming year. While we don’t have the same need of this today as they did in the days before calendars, there is an important theological point that remains true today. First, Easter goes on the calendar first. It is the most important day. Following Easter, we can then figure out the dates of many of the other feasts of the year, like Ash Wednesday and Pentecost. So many feasts move around each year depending on when Easter falls.

There’s a credit card company that asks in their advertisements, “What’s in your wallet?” Today, the more important question for us is, “What’s on your calendar?” You probably got a new calendar for the new year. So, what goes on it first? What’s the most important thing? And after that, what other things are you willing to move around to make the most important things happen? If you want to know what is really important to a person, look at how they spend their time. What are they willing to invest in? If someone looked at your calendar, what would seem to be most important? What priority does will God have in this new year? If you’re wondering what is the most important thing in your life, a good start might be to just ask, “What’s on your calendar?”

Homily 338 – Lots to Celebrate – New Year’s Day

January 1st, 2017, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

MaryToday’s celebration is actually the confluence of several events. On the secular side, it’s New Year’s Day, a chance to flip the calendar and start over. In the Church, today is the “Octave of Christmas,” the eigth day after Christmas. This marks the end of an intense celebration as though every day were Christmas for the past eight days. With it being eight days since the birth of Jesus, every good Jew would know that today also marks the day of the circumcision of Jesus and the day that he was officially given his name. Today is also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and even a day of prayer for world peace.

Today’s homily looks briefly at each of these events that we celebrate today. With so much going on, what better example could we have than Mary who, we are told, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” I pray that each of you will find some quiet time to do the same. Happy New Year!

Homily 337 – The Joy of Scrooge – Christmas

December 25th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Scrooge“Marley was dead: to being with… There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

With these famous lines from the beginning of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens goes to great pain to repeat and make clear that a man is dead. The reason for his insistence will become clear in just a few pages when this same man, who was “as dead as a door-nail,” appears seemingly alive again and talking with Scrooge in his bedroom. A wonder indeed!

After the story of Christmas related in St. Luke’s gospel tonight, perhaps the second best known story of Christmas in English is the story of “A Christmas Carol.” Just the name Scrooge brings to mind one of the greatest Christmas villains of all time. In a spiritual sense, we could say that Scrooge too was “dead… as dead as a door-nail” or at least close. Yet, at the heart of this timeless story is conversion, redemption and mercy. As we celebrate Christmas this year in the Jubilee of Mercy, I see three key lessons from the story of Scrooge that can benefit all of us.

1 ) Scrooge was bad and he didn’t hide it. He didn’t try to fake it, pretending to be a good person. He hated Christmas and everyone knew it. Like Marley who was repeatedly said to be dead…before he was alive again…we have to acknowledge where we are dead. We have to acknowledge how bad things really are in certain areas. Recognizing our fallenness and need for mercy is the critical first step, “or nothing wonderful can come of the story” God is going to work in our lives. Scrooge was not so good and, in many ways, neither are we. That is the truth.

2) Scrooge couldn’t save himself. In fact, he didn’t really even know how bad his life had become. This is why Marley was sent to him in the first place, to warn him. In addition to the ghost of Marley, Scrooge is visited by three “spirits” who use the past, present, and future, to help heal him. This is a beautiful example of God’s mercy. Scrooge couldn’t do it on his own and neither can we. Providentially, we too have guardian angel spirits and saints in heaven to intercede and help us. We need to call for help and beg God to visit us with his mercy precisely because we can’t save ourselves.

3) The future can be better than the past or the present. Scrooge finally realizes what his selfishness has done not only to all those around him, but to himself as well. When he has this amazing conversion, his most earnest wish is that his future can be different. This is the greatest gift of God’s mercy: It doesn’t matter what has been our past or what sins presently afflict us. Scrooge is given a new beginning. “Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!” God gives us this same chance each day.

It was said of Scrooge that “he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” Because Scrooge started so bad, his transformation is all the more amazing. The same is possible for all of us. Maybe we’re not as bad as Scrooge, but we don’t want anything to hold us back from the true joy of Christmas. The days before us are our own. Let’s begin with a thankful heart just as was given to Scrooge and “may God bless us, everyone.”

Homily 336 – God Is With Us – 4th Sunday of Advent

December 18th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

God With UsHow can it be that so many people were not able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah when he came? This is one of the great mysteries of God’s plan of salvation. He spent thousands of years preparing his chosen people to be ready for the coming of the Messiah. Yet, when at last he came, many people missed it. Jesus was not the type of Messiah they were looking for. They expected someone who would come and overthrow the Romans and reestablish a new king on the thrown of David. In short, they expected the Messiah to come and “fix” everything.

Today’s readings give us a special title that more appropriately describes the Messiah; he is to be “Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” Jesus didn’t come to “fix” everything. He didn’t come to take away all the pain and suffering in the world. Rather than take it away or fix it, instead he said, “I am with you.” The great hope we have now is not that the world will be perfect or that our lives will be perfect. Rather, we have the sure knowledge that we don’t go through this alone. God is with us.

One of the most important things to us then as Christians is to know the presence of God in our lives. Especially when things seem to be going wrong and we need help, we need to call out for God. We can even ask for a sign, like we see promised in our first reading. God always answers our prayers, even if the answer isn’t what we were expecting. God may not fix our problems, but we can have peace and joy nonetheless, because we know that God is with us.

Homily 335 – Top Tips for Confession – 3rd Sunday of Advent

December 11th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

No AxesMost people know that being Catholic means that we have a serious obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. However, even Catholics who are great about getting to Mass sometimes have trouble getting to confession regularly. There could be any number of reasons for this, and today’s homily is designed to tackle some of the potential obstacles that might get in the way of receiving God’s mercy in this challenging but beautiful Sacrament of Penance.

In the past, we’ve talked about about this sacrament more from the theological standpoint. Today’s homily is very practical. You might call it, “Fr. Shawn’s Top Tips for Confession.” They are not in any particular order, but they range from seemingly obvious advice like, “Confess your sins and not some else’s,” all the way down to avoiding the “Sandwich Method” and even taking a tour of the confessional… you know where it is, right?

There should be something here for everyone this week, even if you’re an ax murderer. So, don’t miss the opportunity to get to confession before Christmas, and check out these top tips before you go.

Homily 334 – Two Trees – 2nd Sunday of Advent

December 4th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Jesse TreeWhen we think of Christmas, we normally think of Christmas trees. However, our readings today give us two other trees to think about. In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we are introduced to the “stump of Jesse.” Not much of a tree! Yet this stump, and the future it holds, are a sign of great hope. You have to understand a little bit of Jewish history to understand just how bad things were and how much the Messiah was needed. Today’s homily gives a little introduction into this history. You may not end up singing “O Christmas Stump” by the end, but this stump might be just the hope you need right now.

In our gospel today, we meet St. John the Baptist (Yea! The hero of Advent!) and he introduces us to yet another tree. This tree, however, is in danger of being cut down, with an ax laid at it’s root. This tree is meant to represent us. It’s not enough simply to be Catholic and think that we’ve got it made. God can raise up Catholics from stones! Rather, we must bear good fruit, fruit that befits the repentance required to greet the Messiah with a clear conscience. Jesus has baptized us with the Holy Spirit and fire. We have to get going and bear real fruit. Otherwise, our tree is in danger of being reduced to a stump at the Lord’s coming.

Today’s homily focuses on the lesson of these two trees. One is a tree of hope, the other a tree of warning and urgency. Both trees are important for us this Advent if we want to celebrate around a Christmas tree in a few weeks.

Homily 333 – Where Are You Going? – 1st Sunday of Advent

November 27th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Jersey BoysWhere are you going? It’s a geographical question, but also a spiritual question. The collect from today’s Mass prays that we might have “the resolve to run forth” to meet Christ. Are we running toward Christ? Maybe we headed in the wrong direction and Advent is a great time to adjust our course. Maybe we’re kind of headed toward God but have stopped running and have gotten a bit comfortable and complacent where we are. Advent is a time for getting up, to get running again.

Since humans are both body and soul, oftentimes the spiritual changes we’d like to make are best accomplished with some physical changes as well. Maybe this Advent you’ll decide to get up earlier so as to be able to pray as the sun comes up. Maybe you’ll make some time for quiet prayer. The Church’s official prayer, the Sacred Liturgy, also helps us with physical signs pointing us toward the spiritual. We use darker colors to remind us the darkness awaiting the light of Christ’s birth. We brighten this darkness with the increasing light of the candles on our Advent wreaths. There is also an option regarding the direction of prayer at Mass that can help us focus our attention more on Christ’s coming and where we are going.

For most of the history of the Church, when the priest went to the altar to offer the Eucharist, he stood on the same side of the altar as the people. After the Second Vatican Council, the option was given that the priest could stand on either side of the altar. This new option had the advantage of allowing the people to see exactly what the priest was doing and to interact more with the priest. However, one of the unforeseen consequences was that it becomes easier to lose track of where we are going. Instead of seeing the church like a large boat in which we are all sailing forward toward a destination, it becomes easier to see the church more like an auditorium. The sanctuary can be mistaken for a stage with the people sitting out in the audience watching. This is the opposite of what the Council intended when calling for the “full, conscious, and active participation” of the faithful.

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the traditional posture of the priest and the people on the same side of the altar and all facing the same direction together for the Eucharistic Prayer. This arrangement has the advantage of emphasizing a direction of movement in the liturgy. We are not stagnant and rigid, but flexible and moving forward. By all looking forward together, we physically represent the fact that, not only are we running forth to meet the Lord, but the Lord is also coming to meet us. We are formed into a great wedding party going out to meet the bridegroom at his coming. The word Advent means “coming.” It is therefore very fitting to consider the use of this ancient posture during Advent.

In the homily today, I mention some of my experiences of being on stage in my acting days. I still love theater, but I experience it mostly from the audience side these days. I recently went to see a production of the musical “Jersey Boys” about the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. As you might imagine, for most of the show the singers performed and the audience watched. However, at one key moment, all the actors turned around and performed facing the back wall of the stage with their backs to the audience. The thing is, you didn’t feel like the actors “had their backs to you.” Rather, because of the lighting and sound effects, they made you feel like you were on stage with the actors and that there was an audience out there beyond the stage that you couldn’t see.

As I said previously, the church is not an auditorium. Yet, this unique theatrical experience reminded me of an important truth about what happens when the priest and people face the same direction at Mass. Rather than the priest “turning his back on the people,” it creates a situation in which the people in the pews are invited to see themselves as “actors” along with the priest in the great theological drama taking place. Rather than a separation, it’s an invitation to greater unity. Both the priest and the people have important parts to play in the Mass, to pray that “my sacrifice and yours” might be acceptable. This is the “active participation” the Council envisioned. Oh, and that invisible audience? …there really is an invisible audience at Mass. All the angels and saints, and the entire heavenly marriage procession is coming to meet us. We might physically all be looking forward at the back wall of the church, but there’s much more unseen here than seen.

This traditional posture of the priest and people all facing forward together is sometimes referred to as facing ad orientem, literally “toward the East.” The Scripture tells us that Jesus ascended toward the East and promised to return just as the apostles saw him go. The East is thus symbolic of the return of Jesus in glory. It is also the direction of the rising sun, again drawing us to the hope of the dawn of the great “day” that will never end. In history we often tried to build our churches facing geographical East for just this reason, to give the spiritual a physical expression. Today, ad orientem is understood more often in a symbolic sense, with everyone facing the same direction even if it’s not always geographical East. I pray that this Advent might be a fruitful time to “reorient” our lives on the truth on the return of Jesus in glory. I pray that it might be a time for all of us to remember where we are going.

Homily 332 – Who Has the Power? – Christ the King

November 20th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Christ in MajestyWe’ve spent a lot of time lately focusing on political power and who should be allowed to exercise power. In some ways, the same questions that have existed from the founding of our country continue to be debated. How much power should the government have? Should the federal government be strong or weak? Part of the reason for these debates is because we fear what might happen if a tyrant would become too powerful and abuse power.

While skepticism is necessary and healthy in political debate, when it comes to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, there is no reason for fear. Jesus has all the power and yet he only uses his power for our good. If we surrender our lives to his power, we can only come out victorious. The question then for us is are we willing to trust in Jesus our king or will we insist on doing things our way? Finding meaning in our life ultimately comes down to the most important fundamental question, “Who has the power?”