Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-01-19 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-01-19 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 19, 2020

19 January 2020

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 1:29-34 + Homily

14 Minutes 13 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011920.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  I knew an elderly Scotswoman who read the Bible each night by the light of a candle. It had become a kind of ritual, for everyone needs a rite, including those reared in the stark Calvinist kind of worship of her homeland Kirk. While she did all of her other reading by electric light, the lamp was turned off and the candle lit for the Bible. It was by that burning taper that she could read, as all of us can, the wonderful and mysterious words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

   That contrast of light and dark is powerfully depicted in the Isenheim Altarpiece now in Colmar, France. It was produced between 1512 and 1516 by the sculptor Nikolaus of Haguenau and painter Matthias Grünewald for a hospital that treated people suffering from skin diseases, and such affliction is depicted on the flesh of the Crucified Christ in what has been called “The most beautiful painting of ugliness in the history of art.” The darkness of the Passion is darker for being next to the incandescent light of the Risen Christ. At the foot of the Cross, in deliberate contempt for chronology, is John the Baptist, still alive and attended by a lamb, for John had called his cousin “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The Lamb, a symbol of Christ sacrificed on the cross, is also the Light that pre-existed all created light as we know it. “And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23).

   That illuminating “glory of God” briefly broke through created light as we know it in the Transfiguration. If it is to be understood to some small degree, that will be by acknowledging the “pre-existence” of Christ: “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:2-3).

   Even in speech, the mystery of Christ’s pre-existence declares itself: “. . . before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). For any human confined to chronology, saying that would be using bad grammar. One might say “I was” (Simple Past), “I was existing” (Past Continuous), “I had existed” (Past Perfect), or “I had been existing” (Past Perfect Continuous), but only Christ can defy grammar by saying that before Abraham was, “I am.”

   John—standing at the Jordan river, poorly dressed and even more poorly fed—employed the only grammar available to him, to declare of his younger cousin: “This is he, of whom I said: After me there comes a man who is preferred before me, because he was before me” (John 1:30).

 

2020-01-12 - Baptism of the Lord

2020-01-12 - Baptism of the Lord

January 12, 2020

12 January 2020

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Matthew 3:13-17 + Homily

16 Minutes 0 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011220.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Prophets proclaim the truth, and they predict the future only in a derivative sense of cautioning about the consequences of denying the truth. Thus, the Church distinguishes between holy prophesying and sinful fortune-telling. There is a “psychic” near our rectory, who will tell your future for $10, but you have to ring the bell first, and I should think that if she had the powers she claims, she would not require a doorbell.

   The less the Wisdom of God is heeded, the more people rely on fallible human calculations. Inevitably, the list of mistaken predictions keeps growing. We may remember being told in the 1960s that within twenty years, overpopulation would cause universal starvation. Instead, we now have crises of empty cradles and obesity: birth dearth and increased girth. As the new year begins, we can reflect on a prediction of the president of Exxon U.S.A. in 1989 that by 2020 our national oil reserves would be practically nil, while the solid fact is that those reserves are far higher than even back then.

   In 1990, The Washington Post was confident that carbon dioxide emissions would have increased our planet’s average temperature about three degrees (and six degrees in the United States) by 2020. The increase has been only about one degree. If we trusted some experts, by now one billion people would be starving in the Third World due to climate toxicity, but instead the World Bank tells us that there has been a significant alleviation of dire poverty, with the assistance of developed countries and access to investment capital and prudent production. 

   There still are glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro, despite a warning of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2003 that by now they would have melted. In 1997, the Reuters newswire announced that by 2020 some eight million people would have died because of global warming catastrophes, while such deaths actually have reached historic lows. Taking up that theme, a New York congresswoman and former bartender predicts that the world could end in twelve years.

   While to err is human and to forgive is divine, as the Catholic sensibility of Alexander Pope opined, forgiveness requires apologizing. Wrong predictions in recent decades are conspicuous for their authors’ lack of contrition. It is as if they had absorbed the bromide uttered at the end of the sentimental film “Love Story” in 1970: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” If that were so, there would be no Act of Contrition in the Holy Mass, which is the world’s most sublime manifestation of love. But we are talking here about simple humility in anticipating the future. 

   Without accountability to God for the right use of reason, ideology mimics theology, disagreement is treated as heresy, neurosis fabricates its own apocalypse, and mistakes claim infallibility, with no need to say “I was wrong.” 

 
2020-01-05 - Epiphany

2020-01-05 - Epiphany

January 5, 2020

5 January 2020

The Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2:1-12 + Homily

17 Minutes 25 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010520.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Who the “Wise Men” were is a recurring question for inventive debate, but the point is that these sophisticated scholars were from “a foreign country.”

   Here in Manhattan, tourists can be annoying when they stop suddenly to look at a novel sight. But they also do us the favor of noticing what we take for granted. Those Magi from a foreign land pointed out that the locals had missed the greatest event in history. They also wisely distrusted King Herod (his heir Archelaus was even worse, as Saint Joseph knew), and so they ignored him. When Herod found out that a child had come into the world who threatened his complacency, he set out to destroy him, killing many innocents in the attempt.

   Christians must always be tourists in this earthly realm, pointing out the wonders that others take for granted. That can be threatening to many. True Christians disturb the settled ways of a culture. People who succumb to the insanity of sin will accuse Christians of madness. That is how we get martyrs, as happened a couple of weeks ago in Nigeria when Muslims killed eleven Christians. Such hostility was an expression of the killers’ conviction that Jesus Christ brought madness into the world.

   In  a 1959 ”Twilight Zone” television episode called “Eye of the Beholder,” some exceedingly ugly people unsuccessfully perform plastic surgery on a beautiful woman, thinking that she is the one who is ugly. In our decaying culture, there are those who think that history’s Perfect Man was ugly and that those who are like him should be crucified one way or another, usually by ridicule and censorship. The media and demagogic politicians do this as a habit.

   In recent days, a woman in Britain gave birth, although she was bearded after hormonal treatments that made her appear as the man she had “transitioned” to be twelve years before. Her partner is “non-binary”—which means neither male nor female, and the “sperm donor” was a man who thinks he is a woman, while the obstetrician, according to vague reports, was either a man who claims to be a woman or a woman who claims to be a man.

   Thus, our rattled culture poses a dilemma: either these people are mentally ill, or Christians are. And this is not confined to the esoteric. An Ivy League institution has just mailed forms to alumni, asking them to choose the descriptive pronoun they prefer. This gives new meaning to “institution.” And this is why sane voices increasingly are banned from speaking in such places, because the function of prophets is to point out that inmates are running the asylum.

   Observant souls never take for granted the sanity Christ brought into the world. Salvation means sanity. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

 

2020-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

2020-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2020

1 January 2020

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Luke 2:16-21 + Homily

9 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010120.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-29 - Holy Family

2019-12-29 - Holy Family

December 29, 2019

29 December 2019

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 + Homily

16 Minutes 45 Seconds 

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122919.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

 

From the parish bulletin:

  An architect knows where all the doors in a house will lead because he designed it. That is why man-made religions can seem plausible, being the product of human imagination. That is also why the fact that Christ is a divine reality, or “Person,” while having two natures, challenges human understanding, because it is not a human invention. In these days of Christmas, a good way to avoid reducing the Incarnation’s mysterious meaning to simple expressions of goodwill and Dickensian jollity, is to read the Athanasian Creed, focusing on the lines: “Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed unto God. He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by unity of person.” 

   A sure way to get the Incarnation wrong is to try to use mere human imagery to explain it. One recent attempt, with the best of intentions, was to make an analogy between the two natures of Christ and the mixed races of “mestizos” who are part European and part American Indian. This echoes the mistake of the monk Eutyches (d. 454), who imagined the divinity and humanity of Christ as fused into a sort of homogenized third reality, half God and half Man. Not to make light of such a serious mistake, but it reminds one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Iolanthe,” named for a woodland fairy who bears a son, Strephon, fathered by a mortal man. Strephon’s problem is that he is half sprite and halfhuman, so when he tries to fly through a keyhole, his human legs get stuck. 

   There were even bishops who did not want to think more deeply than Eutyches, although he had been condemned as a heretic in 448, and they rehabilitated him at a bogus “Robber” council of Ephesus in Turkey. Pope Leo (known to history as “the Great”) appealed from Rome to the venerable lady Pulcheria, empress in the Byzantine half of the Roman Empire, who at the time was regent during the minority of her brother Theodosius II, asking her to summon another council. During the third session of that assembly in Chalcedon, a letter from the Pope was read, defining the true mystery of the Son of God, and the bishops cried out in chorus: “This is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. We all believe, the orthodox believe thus. Those who do not believe thus are excommunicated. Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo.” 

   At Christmas we remember the words Peter heard from the Master, who was once cradled in Bethlehem: “. . . flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 16:17).

 

2019-12-24 - Christmas

2019-12-24 - Christmas

December 24, 2019

24 December 2019

The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas):

Mass During the Night

Luke 2:1-14 + Homily

16 Minutes 2 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122519-the-nativity-of-the-lord-night.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-22 - Advent IV

2019-12-22 - Advent IV

December 22, 2019

22 December 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:18-24 + Homily

14 Minutes 59 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122219.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  I have long been of the opinion that preachers should avoid allusions to the painting “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt. This is not because it is inferior in any way. It is a tour de force of an artist’s craft and a prime example of the Pre-Raphaelite school that he began around 1848 with John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, trying to revive the mystical aura they thought had become somewhat lost in the cold rationalism of the Renaissance. They were  a lively and amusing coterie. Father Neville of the Oratory was offended when Millais smoked a pipe in the presence of John Henry Newman as he painted his great portrait of the saint. But His Eminence did not mind at all and was eminently amused.

   My hesitation about Hunt’s painting of Christ knocking on a door is that it has become a cliché. It has been copied countless times, and like Leonardo’s Last Supper, it is seen so much that it is robbed of its force and even suffers the degradation of reproduction on coffee mugs and tea towels. Hunt’s painting has further been badly caricatured, as in the modern version by Warner Sallman, in a descent from cliché to kitsch. But clichés become clichés because of their innate truth, even if they are responsible for dreary platitudes from the pulpit.

   Hence, the Advent days make reference to Hunt’s painting unavoidable, for its symbolism puts on the painter’s canvas, with color and linseed oil, what the scribe’s ink wrote on parchment: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

   At the risk of being tiresome, it needs to be pointed out that there is no exterior handle on the door, for it is the door of the human soul, which has to be opened from the inside. The door is covered with the thistles of sin. This is the moment when free will decides to open or shut. Free imagination assumes that the light Christ carries is seeping through cracks in the door’s rough wood, just as prophetic voices in Advent hint at a great Light about to shine  on the world.

   Over three centuries before the Incarnation, the Cynic philosopher Diogenes supposedly carried a  lamp through the streets, “looking for an honest man.” Since Christ is Wisdom itself, the lamp he carries in portraiture is not a searchlight. It is a reflection of the light of divinity that surrounds his divine head, for he is “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).

   On Christmas, the Church chants the words first uttered at Nicaea in Turkey by bishops who in many instances had been battered by darkened intellects: “Light from Light.” That is not a cliché.

2019-12-15 - Advent III

2019-12-15 - Advent III

December 15, 2019

15 December 2019

The Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Matthew 11:2-11 + Homily

16 Minutes 27 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121519.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

 Gaudete!—Rejoice!—is the name for the Third Sunday of Advent. The rubrics say the Advent penances and discipline are somewhat mitigated on this day. Gaudete Sunday is a respite, rather like one of those “film trailers” that give a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come. Even so, the sonorous hymns and rose colors of Gaudete Sunday are awkward vaudeville rather than true drama, if there is no penance to lighten and no discipline to lessen. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).

   Saint Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of ink describing joy, just as Bach set “the joy of man’s desiring” to music. Joy is a fact that only the true God can give, and so it is more than a transient feeling of happiness. At the heart of human nature is the longing for joy, and this is the case even with miscreants who are deluded in thinking that sensuality, sloth, and even suicide will bestow a fugitive kind of happiness.

   Advent is the guide to true joy, and it has become a Lost Season, just as Confession has become a Lost Sacrament, because our culture is impatient for joy and tries to be satisfied with tinsel happiness. Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch that stole Christmas” has a twin in the Grinch that stole Advent. This means that the beautiful hymnody and literature of Advent is swept away. Even organizations that claim to be Christian have Christmas parties in Advent. Excuses for “rushing” Christmas would be amusing were they not so pathetic. That sober modern prophet, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the twentieth century.” That disease has become epidemic in our new century.

   Patience is one of the seven fruits of the Holy Spirit. It should strengthen the soul that is tempted to celebrate Christmas before Christmas. The excuse for doing that—“But everybody expects it”—merely means that the “Long expected Jesus” is not really expected. In contrast, persecuted Christians in diverse lands keep a more profound Advent, learning and living “all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). This has significant results. While persecution has driven Christianity in Iraq almost to extinction, the Chaldean Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa, has said that his people “lost everything except our faith in Jesus Christ” and are stronger for it. Moreover, he said, “many thousands of Muslims discovered the Person of Jesus Christ” after seeing the patient endurance of Christians.

   In Advent, has your example brought anyone closer to the deep joy of Christ? "Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).

2019-12-09 - Immaculate Conception

2019-12-09 - Immaculate Conception

December 9, 2019

9 December 2019

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Luke 1:26-38 + Homily

17 Minutes 38 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120919.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-08 - Advent II

2019-12-08 - Advent II

December 8, 2019

8 December 2019

The Second Sunday of Advent

Matthew 3:1-12 + Homily

20 Minutes 22 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Of the “Four Last Things,” the Second Sunday of Advent treats Judgment. While it is superficially pious to ask, “Who am I to judge?” this has nothing to do with our Lord’s admonition: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Christians are obliged to judge (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Judgment is the ability to make a right discernment, and the chronic inability to do that is the definition of insanity. God is the ultimate judge, and all human judgment must conform to his justice. Otherwise, judgment is defective, based on “outward appearance” (John 7:24).

   The spiritual director of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Abbé Henri Huvelin, told a woman who accused herself of pride for thinking that she was one of the greatest beauties in Paris: “Madame, that is not a sin. It is merely a mistaken judgment.”

   In the second century, Justin Martyr told the Roman consul Quintus Junius Rusticus: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.”

   Great leaders like King Louis IX were just judges. As he was dying on the Eighth Crusade, he left a testament to his son and heir: "In order to do justice and right to thy subjects, be upright and firm, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, but always to what is just; and do thou maintain the cause of the poor until such a time as the truth is made clear.”

   The virtue of justice is twin to prudence. Naiveté is eviscerated prudence. So for example, the recent capitulation of some Vatican diplomats to the Chinese government was intended to secure justice for Chinese Catholics, but it only issued in their further oppression. Now, the Communists have ordered that if any church is not to be destroyed, it must replace images of Jesus with that of Xi Jinping. The lack of right discernment leads to untold suffering.

   The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is transferred this Advent to Monday. A depiction of Our Lady as the New Eve portrays her trampling on the head of Satan, shown as a serpent. This fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. It is the ultimate act of justice, which Mary, along with all Christians, can do by the power of the Just Judge, “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), who is the ultimate crusher of the Prince of Lies.

   By no means a Catholic mystic, some inspiration moved Julia Ward Howe to awaken before dawn in the Willard Hotel in 1861 and write with a stub of pencil, the “Battle Hymn” which includes the often-neglected lines: “Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, / Since God is marching on.”