Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-11-17 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-11-17 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 17, 2019

17 November 2019

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 21:5-19 + Homily

18 Minutes 56 Seconds

NOTE: Fr. Rutler was out of town today. The homily attached is from the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time in 2016 using the same readings as today.

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Most of our Founding Fathers were not deeply informed about Catholicism, but they appreciated moral integrity when they saw it. When Albert Dubois, eventually the first resident Bishop of New York, fled the French Revolution, he lived for a while in the home of James Monroe. Patrick Henry taught him English, and Thomas Jefferson arranged for him to say Mass in the courtroom of the newly built State House of Virginia.

   On July 13, 1804, Jefferson wrote to the Superior and Sisters of the Ursuline order in New Orleans: “I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana; the principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”

   Happily, at the end of October, the present Administration redressed restrictions on freedom of religion imposed in prior years. Previously, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had refused federal aid to the foster-care and adoption agencies of Catholic and evangelical Protestant foundations that oppose abortion and the redefinition of marriage. Moreover, the government will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools. Ironically, some of our church leaders, to maintain government funding for pre-kindergarten programs and the like, already agreed to remove crucifixes and religious symbols from parochial school classrooms.

   George Washington, who made a significant donation to the Augustinian order, took John Adams to a Catholic Mass in Philadelphia. For Adams, who lapsed into Unitarianism, the chapel might have seemed at first like a Hindu temple, but he found everything so awe-inspiring that he wrote to Abigail: “I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.” What most impressed him was the straightforward “moral” preaching of the priest.

   When Adams was only 21, he wrote: "… This World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State, but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence, after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety. And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire, and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune, against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”

   Perhaps Providence has saved our nation from the downward spiral of hostility to God. Whatever the future holds, Catholics should pray that their ecclesiastical leaders—and they themselves—will match the fortitude of strong voices now heard in the civic order with boldness for holy religion. 

2019-11-10 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-11-10 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 10, 2019

10 November 2019

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 20:7-38 + Homily

18 Minutes 49 Seconds

Note: Due to technical difficulties today's homily was not recorded. This homily is from 2016 using the same text for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Link to today's Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Life in New York City can be hard for anyone who has difficulty accommodating paradoxes. For instance, the same City Council that has just banned the sale of foie gras on the grounds that it involves cruelty to force-fed geese, previously made New York the first city to pay mothers from other states to come here for abortions. With all due respect to Mother Goose, it seems hyperbolic to treat the over-feeding of ducks and geese as more inhumane than the destruction of the most helpless humans. Babies are human, yet there are those who do not see anything inhumane about killing a human child right up to birth.

   Another curiosity that becomes “curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice described Wonderland, was the recent decision of our mayor’s wife to include among proposed statues honoring women, two men who attained fame by pretending to be women. By sane logic, that would be like honoring the women of the Revolution with a statue of Benjamin Franklin dressed as Martha Washington.

   Another proposed statue celebrates a woman notorious for her promotion of infanticide, the majority of infants killed being female. In a poll to decide who should deserve a statue, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini won first place by a landslide. But in her 67 years of humanitarian work, she established 67 institutions, all of which promoted the dignity of life from womb to grave, with no aborting of babies or giving poison pills to the sick and elderly. The saint’s broken English would have been at a loss to describe men with husbands or women with wives. 

   Mother Cabrini’s labors were too exhausting for her to worry about foie gras, which she probably could not afford anyway. Yet the mayor’s wife defied voters and eliminated the saintly woman from the list of honorees. That is no problem, though, because the same Catholic Church that “social progressives” slander as sexist, has more statues of women  than the profligate City Council—with its hundreds of millions of dollars of unaccounted funds—could ever hope to match, and they include countless images of Mother Cabrini.

   Saints are the greatest people who ever lived, but to acknowledge their existence means that you have to acknowledge God, who alone is the source of heroic grace that raises human nobility to the level of sanctity. This is why the saints are nervously ignored by cynics who hold holy innocence in contempt.

   The newly canonized John Henry Newman preached: “What if wicked men took and crucified a young child? What if they deliberately seized its poor little frame, and stretched out its arms, nailed them to a cross bar of wood, drove a stake through its two feet, and fastened them to a beam, and so left it to die?”

   Perhaps our mayor’s wife might explain why Christ, more innocent even than an infant, was crucified, or how his suffering for our sins compares with foie gras.

2019-11-03 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-11-03 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2019

3 November 2019

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 19:1-10 + Homily

17 Minutes 45 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  A 1973 film directed by Orson Welles was about forgers, and it turned out to be something of a forgery itself. Some of the information in “F for Fake” was itself faked. Later on, Welles claimed that this was deliberately done as a kind of joke, and he took to calling it an “essay” and “docudrama” rather than an authentic documentary. In art circles, some forgers have become celebrities, both for their skill and for their criminal cleverness.

   In the last century the Hungarian forger Elmyr de Hory duped over one thousand collectors with his copies of masterpieces. John Myatt swindled Sotheby’s and Christie’s with his. Robert Driessen made a fortune from his slick forgeries of Giacometti. More impressive was Han van Meegeren, who became a folk hero in Holland for the way he could forge works by Vermeer. In 1911, when the Mona Lisa was temporarily stolen, Yves Chaudron was reputed to have sold six copies to unsuspecting wealthy Americans. It is surprising that Michelangelo carved what he claimed was an ancient Roman sculpture of “Eros Sleeping,” which he aged by rubbing it with acidic soil. He did this when he was 21, possibly as a joke, around the same time that he made the Pietà, so he certainly was not lacking talent.

   A friend asked me why forgeries are less valuable than originals, if it is hard to tell them apart. The question can be annoying, but it has a certain logic. The answer, of course, is that the value of a work consists not only in its artistry, but in its originality. In that sense, what we call creativity is a gift of God who alone is the Source of all things, including life itself. Only God is the primary Creator, and humans are his pro-creators. We cannot produce something out of nothing.

   The more individuals allow God, by a right exercise of the free will, to shape their souls according to his likeness, the more their individuality becomes pronounced. This is the work of “sanctifying grace” by which God “perfects human nature,” as Saint Thomas described the process (Summa Theol. 1, 1, 8 ad. 2). The Anti-Christ cannot create, and so he tries to make human forgeries, by sin. The more people block the will of God, the more they become uninspired copies of each other. This is why sinners are predictable, while saints are always surprising. No two saints are alike.

   A figure of speech, synecdoche, uses one word, as part of something, to represent the whole. Forgers are synecdoches of all sinners who pretend to be creative instead of letting God work through them. The month of November focuses on the saints, who are not cleverly crafted imitations, but who are authentic images of God who "alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16).

2019-11-01 - All Saints

2019-11-01 - All Saints

November 1, 2019

1 November 2019

All Saints Day

Matthew 5:1-12A + Homily

16 Minutes 43 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110119.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-10-27 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-10-27 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 27, 2019

27 October 2019

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 18:9-14 + Homily

16 Minutes 56 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102719.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  If “religio” is translated as being bound to a particular outlook on life, then everyone is religious. The saints simply have bound themselves to true religion. Today that is a socially unacceptable assertion, but “political correctness” is itself a form of religion. Early Christians were condemned as atheists because they refused to worship the gods approved by the government. The term “agnostic,” presumably coined by T.H. Huxley in 1869, is just a lazy form of atheism. But institutionalized atheism, which the Soviets called “gosateizm,” has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions. In our own country, it has created a hollowness of spirit and consequent despair. It is not irrelevant to this case that the most impressionable age group in our society, adolescents, have had a 56% rise in suicides in the last ten years.

   Saint Polycarp could have been spared death by burning had he renounced “Atheism,” which meant Christianity, but he shocked the pagans in the stadium by shouting that they were the real atheists. Around 110 AD, Pliny the Younger, governor in northern Asia Minor, would exonerate Christians if they would worship the emperor Trajan as a god, along with the statues in the state pantheon, “which it is said bona fide Christians cannot be induced to do.” Thus there were even then what we now call “CINOs”—Catholics in Name Only, not “bona fide,” who claim to be Catholic only when politically convenient, or in order to get married in a pretty church.

   “Secularism” is a religion with a non-creedal creed censuring those who do not believe in unbelief. Young people in the United States who claim to have “No Religion”—called “Nones”—now outnumber Catholics, and they have their own prophets, redefining morality and predicting apocalypse by carbon emissions. “Politically incorrect” thinkers are banned from universities as heretics. Attorney General William Barr recently exposed this in an address at the law school of Notre Dame University: The secular project “is taking on all the trappings of religion, including inquisitions and excommunication. Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake—social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.”

   Some church leaders have tried to cajole secularists by avoiding mention of true religion. By contrast, Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, whose family suffered under Stalin’s pogroms, has said that a dispirited Catholicism is “an extremely cunning method of Satan to take away the successors of the Apostles and priests from prayer and evangelization—under the pretext of a so-called ‘synodality.’”

   The Founder of what politically correct idolaters in every age have considered heretical atheism warned: “For he that shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when he shall come in his majesty, and that of his Father, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).

Faithfully yours in Christ, Father George W. Rutler

2019-10-20 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-10-20 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 20, 2019

20 October 2019

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 18:1-8 + Homily

16 Minutes 35 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102019.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Last week’s canonization of Saint John Henry Newman will have universal influences that I trust will include our own parish. It should be remembered that his achievements, for the most part, hardly seemed successful at the time. He might even be called a patron saint of the disappointed.

   Newman was so nervous in his university examinations that he got a “Lower Second Class” degree. He played the violin to relax, but the chords of his mind were taut, and he later suffered a nervous breakdown. He failed to attain a professorship of Moral Philosophy. Many Oxford dons derided his views, and eventually he resigned.

   When Newman became a Catholic, former friends thought he had wasted his talents, and some Catholics questioned his free spirit and innovative genius. Not least among these were bishops. In Ireland, Archbishop Cullen impeded his foundation of a Catholic University there and opposed making Newman a bishop. In England, Cardinal Manning, a great man in some ways but not innocent of envy, regularly thwarted numerous projects. The English-language secretary of Pope Pius IX prejudiced the pope’s opinion of Newman, and with no little subtlety, Manning tried to prevent the new Pope Leo XIII from vindicating him with a Cardinal’s red hat.

   Newman left a legacy of 32 volumes of letters, and in some of them he confided his frustrations. But his amiability and patience won over many. In old age, Newman’s Oxford college made him an honorary Fellow, and at Newman’s death Manning himself said, “The history of our land will hereafter record the name of John Henry Newman among the greatest of our people, as a confessor for the faith, a great teacher of men, a preacher of justice, of piety, and of compassion.”

   Neman kept his balance by a steady faith in the uncompromising truth of Christ. This boldly defied the pastiche of true Christianity that was spreading in his time and which he prophesied would become endemic in our own age:

   "What is the world's religion now? It has taken the brighter side of the gospel, its tidings of comfort, its precepts of love; all darker, deeper views of man's condition and prospects being comparatively forgotten. This is the religion natural to a civilized age and well has Satan dressed and completed it into an idol of the Truth. . . . Our manners are courteous; we avoid giving pain or offence . . . religion is pleasant and easy; benevolence is the chief virtue; intolerance, bigotry, excess of zeal are the first of sins. . . . [I]t includes no true fear of God, no fervent zeal for His honour, no deep hatred of sin, no horror at the sight of sinners, no indignation and compassion at the blasphemy of heretics, no jealous adherence to doctrinal truth . . .—and therefore is neither hot nor cold, but (in Scripture language) lukewarm.” (Sermon 24. Religion of the Day)

   That sort of “Catholic-Lite” does not make saints, and Newman proved that.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Father George W. Rutler

2019-10-13 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-10-13 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

 13 October 2019

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Canonization of Saint John Henry Newman

Luke 17:11-19 + Homily

18 Minutes 58 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Over forty years ago, I told a wise Protestant theologian that I had been reading the Apologia pro Vita Sua of John Henry Newman (1801-1890). He warned me that it is “a dangerous book.” That was just the sort of advice that makes a young thinker all the more eager to read it. And so I did, and so did countless others whose lives were changed by this book, whose passages are some of the most beautiful in the English language, and whose author’s the thoughts considering the psychology of the soul are undying.

   Newman wrote that book in four weeks, standing at his upright desk in Birmingham, England, in response to a personal attack on his integrity: “I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind . . . but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.”

   Today Newman is to be canonized in Rome, a tribute to his unsurpassed gifts of grace as theologian, historian, writer, poet, preacher and, most of all, a pastor of souls. While preaching and writing immortal words, he also was meticulous in running the Oratory school he founded, even making costumes for school plays, paying coal bills, and playing his fiddle in the school orchestra.

   In his honor and in thanksgiving for the Church’s recognition of his holiness, of which the angels never were in doubt, we shall dedicate today a shrine for him in our church. As with all that we try to do in our church, this sculpture is the work of one of our own parishioners. Newman foresaw with uncanny prescience the various challenges of our own day, and this monument should be a reminder to pray for his intercession on behalf of our local church and the Church Universal in a time of spiritual combat, which is a lot like what he faced in his own age. 

   To Newman’s great surprise, and even “shock,” the newly elected Pope Leo XIII in 1879 created him a cardinal. He had been so attacked and calumniated for his religious views over many years, that he was satisfied that the “cloud” had finally been lifted. In his acceptance speech he said that his entire life had been consecrated to refuting the doctrine of relativism which held that “Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.”

   Today we sing Cardinal Newman’s hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light,” which his own life embodied and faith made bold: “I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me.”

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Father George W. Rutler

2019-10-06 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-10-06 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 6, 2019

6 October 2019

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 17:5-10 + Homily

16 Minutes 28 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100619.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  At the start of October, life in Manhattan recovers from those late September weeks when the opening of the United Nations General Assembly ties up traffic, even blocking many streets, and takes over many hotels and clubs for expensive receptions—some of the costliest, it seems, being those of some of the poorest countries. With so many heads of state in town, battalions of Secret Service agents and bodyguards eye everyone with suspicion.

   This year there was one bright spot, although largely ignored by much of the media. Representing the United States, our President gave what was perhaps the most forceful address that any of our Chief Executives have spoken there. Denouncing the United Nations’ scheme to promote abortion, first drafted in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the President said that “Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life.”

   Such boldness must have shocked many diplomats present, like those in the 1942 film “I Married an Angel” who were aghast when Jeanette MacDonald, as a blessed angel, tells them the truth, upsetting their cocktail party. Our nation has never had an angel for president, and its Constitution in fact prevents that. But Abraham Lincoln invoked “the better angels of our nature” and confounded those who had dismissed him as an untutored vulgarian with ambiguous views on abolition. The first Christians in Jerusalem were suspicious of Paul’s conversion, and theologians like Tertullian and Justin, some years before Constantine, thought it impossible that any emperor would ever defend Christianity.

   Ironically, there are highly placed prelates who have shied away from mentioning these matters in secular forums, hoping that subtlety might be more persuasive. Such naiveté, as in the instance of the Holy See’s diplomats cajoling Communist China by compromise, accomplishes little. In his United Nations speech, the President said: “The world fully expects that the Chinese government will honor its binding treaty, made with the British and registered with the United Nations, in which China commits to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system, and democratic ways of life.” The Holy See has not commented on the popular demonstrations in Hong Kong, which may explain why the youths there struggling for freedom, and inspired by the heroic Cardinal Zen, are waving the Stars and Stripes and not the Vatican flag. 

   “For he that shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: the Son of man also will be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).

2019-09-29 - Feast of St. Michael

2019-09-29 - Feast of St. Michael

September 29, 2019

29 September 2019

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

John 1:47-51 + Homily

18 Minutes 37 Seconds

From the parish bulletin:

  In thinking of angels, you need humility, for a couple of reasons. First of all, a cynical culture mocks anyone who believes that angels exist in any way that is real rather than sentimental. Secondly, since angels, who were created before humans, are intelligent beyond any material measurement, that means they are smarter than any human. And so, by comparison we must seem very stupid.

   But angels are humble too, although for a different reason. They can actually see God, so they are perpetually aware of their inferiority. In their perfect humility, they rejoice in that fact, and their subservience to their Creator makes them shine in glory. Chesterton rallied symbolic language to say that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.

   At each Mass, angels gather at the altar. This Sunday in our church there will be a special kind of holy commotion because it is our parish’s patronal feast, with our patron never failing to be present. Saint Michael, as an archangel along with Gabriel and Raphael, has a symbolic name. (Michael means “Who is like God?”.) Surely it was by some inspiration, when the parish was established in 1857 with boundaries originally from 28th to 38th Streets and from 6th Avenue to the banks of the Hudson River, that Saint Michael, who casts “into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl through the world,” was made protector of what the police would come to call “Hell’s Kitchen.”

   While crime and dereliction are still around (after a recent Vigil Mass there was a brawl in front of the church, but a dozen policemen quickly came to help us), our streets are much different now. There are new hotels, fine restaurants and elegant shops. We are at the center of the biggest real estate development in the history of the United States. A few years ago, the future of our church building itself was at risk. While maintenance costs continue at a level that could seem daunting, the burden does not weigh heavily considering what can be accomplished. In that sense, we can reach new heights if, like the angels, we take ourselves lightly. 

   Now the challenge is to bring those who are out on the street into God’s House. There is a daily stream of tourists stopping in to visit. The silent witness of our own people at prayer throughout the day can be, and in many instances already has been, an effective work of evangelism, turning picture-taking into worship.

   To have such potential is a big responsibility. “From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). The hulking skyscrapers rising all around here may seem intimidating, but through the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel, they can also be like Jacob’s ladder, on which the angels move up and down, connecting our temporal lives with life eternal.

2019-09-22 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-09-22 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2019

22 September 2019

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 8:16-18 + Homily

19 Minutes 40 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  As with quotations that are variously attributed, journalists including Charles Anderson Dana of the “New York Tribune” and John B. Bogart of the “New York Sun” are said to have coined the aphorism: “‘Dog bites man’ does not make the news, but ‘Man bites dog’ does.” Human nature is fascinated by what is exceptional and scandalous. But “skandalon” really means more than that. It is a “stumbling block” that trips up the way mere mortals think things are supposed to be.  

   Theologically, there is the “Scandal of Particularity.” It has two aspects. First is the doctrine that the Creator of the universe has solicitude for every minute detail of it, even every sparrow and each hair on your head (cf. Matt. 10:29). This has ramifications even in mathematics where the “Chaos Theory” proposes a “Butterfly Effect,” meaning that something as slight as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in New Delhi might cause a hurricane in New York. So too it is with people.

   Every human action can have consequences beyond fathoming. There is the prime example of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, that started a domino effect leading to the First World War. His chauffeur spoke only Czech and did not understand the orders of German security officers to follow a route safe from assassins. So he drove according to the original plan and came within feet of a radical Bosnian who had not expected such luck. It might be said that 17 million people eventually died because one man took a wrong turn.

   The second part of the Scandal of Particularity is the acknowledgement that Christ, whose divine nature has no beginning or end, came to our small planet with a human nature as the unique savior from sin and death. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a). His divine nature enables him to see “the big picture” while his human nature involves him in the minutest details of ordinary life. If this is scandalous, it is because presently we are limited to categories of time and space, and we find it hard to think of importance without being overwhelmed by size and power.

   In another quotation variously attributed, Stalin is said to have remarked: “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million men is a statistic.” The same dictator mockingly asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” He knows now – though a bit too late. But the biggest scandal of all to the limited mind, and so bold that it is refreshing when it expands the mind, is the Lord’s declaration: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father apart from me” (John 14:6).