Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-10-25 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-10-25 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2020

25 October 2020

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:34-40 + Homily

17 Minutes 14 Seconds

NOTE: Due to technical difficulties today’s homily is not available. The homily recorded here was given on 29 October 2017, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time using the same readings as today.

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 25 October 2020:

  In one survey of grammarians, two words deemed to be among the most beautiful sounding in the English language were Agape and Philadelphia. The problem is that these actually are Greek. There also are many aphorisms in the English language that have become so familiar that one may not realize that their sources are in antiquity. Take for instance “Who will watch the watchers?”—which originally was a phrase of the Roman poet Juvenal (b. 55 AD). He also coined the expression “a sound mind in a sound body,” and in college we were not allowed to forget its Latinity, for it was written on a wall of the gymnasium: “Mens sana in corpore sano.”

  Juvenal had a talent for lapidary expressions, and I suppose his most common one is “bread and circuses” from his Satire X. Precisely because he was satirical, he was not popular among the more thin-skinned Romans. Juvenal was of the senatorial caste, and much of a snob, for he disdained what some of our contemporary politicians have called “a basket of deplorables.” But his point was well taken at least in the sense that the majority of the populace could be controlled by being offered things, like government subsidies and sports, in exchange for the freedom they had enjoyed in republican Rome before Augustus created the imperial “deep swamp” that eventually led to the moral decay of their civilization.

  In our days of high political fever, one need not embellish the cultural parallels. A natural philosophical school of Stoics disdained vulgar seductions by the imperium, but they were of little threat, and when they became political obstacles, they could be eliminated the way Nero compelled Seneca to kill himself shortly before his elder brother Gallio did the same. It is not irrelevant to the story that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia, and the just judge who dismissed the case against Saint Paul (Acts 18:12-17). It was the emergence of the strange new cult worshiping a “Christos,” whom his followers said had risen from the dead in the backwater of Judea, that began to threaten the Roman “deep state.”

  Political discourse today has degenerated into riots because what is at stake is not a mere matter of government, but a crisis of humanity itself. There is a portion of the people that, as Juvenal satirized, “anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses,” but behind their superficial choice of living are sinister forces as from a swamp that would subvert by anarchy all that the Christian mind knows to be true.

  About one-fifth of the citizens in the United States are Catholic, and how they vote will determine how many of them really are faithful to the “Christos” who asked, “For what does it profit a man, if he shall gain he whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

2020-10-18 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-10-18 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 18, 2020

 18 October 2020

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:15-21 + Homily

16 Minutes 08 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 18 October 2020:

  Some of those dining before the gilded statue in Rockefeller Center in fair weather and skating there in the winter may not know that the glistening figure is Prometheus, one of the Titans who preceded the gods of Mount Olympus. He stole fire from Zeus, who then condemned Prometheus to everlasting torment by an eagle eating his liver, which was renewed each day. The liver was thought to be the seat of human emotion, and the agony expressed the consequences of overreaching in attempts at seizing power. Prometheus gave mankind gifts of the intellect, and so over the Rockefeller statue are words of Aeschylus, which perhaps do not command the attention of many diners and skaters: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” 

   While Greek mythology was sheer fantasy, it is psychologically insightful, as it symbolizes the complexities of reason and willpower. In this it is superior to the Norse mythology that gave Wagner his operatic bluster. Better Venus than Brunhilda. But what then of the true God who is revealed in Christ? He is not, like Zeus, infuriated at the theft of his power. It is true that he is “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24), but that jealousy is the desire of divine love to be loved in return, for that love endows human creatures with the gift of knowledge, freely sending fire to human souls at Pentecost. 

   Humanity has a hard time understanding why the Divine Love is logical and manifests that love by subjecting itself to that logic. By not being able to do irrational things, God shows his power by subjecting himself to that inability. For instance, God cannot make himself cease to exist (2 Timothy 2:13), and he cannot sin (Hebrews 4:15), nor can he lie (Titus 1:2). 

   In his Regensburg lecture in 2006, Pope Benedict calmly explained the difference between the Divine Logic incarnate in Christ and the Islamic concept of a god who is pure will, even if that will is irrational. Some who misunderstood his academic analysis rioted and murdered, and by so doing, proved his point. 

   If the Creator is illogical, then creation is chaotic. The only morality, then, is the assertion of strength. Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematographic propaganda for Nazism was called “Triumph of the Will” and not “Triumph of the Reason.” While Hitler disdained religion, in 1941 he treated cordially the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, because they at least agreed on the primacy of willpower over moral reason. 

   The model who posed for the statue of Prometheus in New York, Leonardo Nole, became a postman in New Rochelle and died in a nursing home in Sacramento, California. The RMS Titanic was so named to invoke the power of the Greek Titans. And we know what happened to the Titanic



2020-10-11 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-10-11 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2020

 11 October 2020

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:1-14 + Homily

19 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 11 October 2020:

  Of the many scientific contributions made by priests, including Father Copernicus’s heliocentrism and Father Lemaître’s “Big Bang” theory, some would rank higher the invention of champagne by Dom Pérignon. Something close to it had already been invented by monks near Carcassonne in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire in 1531. They were Benedictines like Pérignon, but he replaced wooden stoppers with corks and developed thicker glass bottles that enabled the production, a century or so later, of what we now call champagne.

  When Dom Pérignon first tasted what he had done to Pinot Noir in 1693, he shouted: “Come my brothers, I am tasting the stars!” Stretching that a bit, it is a good description of the Christian encountering Christ. It is more than Archimedes shouting “Eureka!” when he discovered a principle of hydraulics, because it is an embrace of eternity. So Saint Peter declares, in telling us to obey the prophecy of Scripture “like a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the day star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

  In Christ’s revelation of heavenly joy, he describes himself as the first of all stars: “I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). He appears to us first like a distant light, like Venus rising as a portent of the sun about to appear. As the Morning star, Christ contradicts the Anti-Christ, Lucifer, who once was called a bearer of light and even the Morning Star, before his fall: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)

  We are living in a kind of chiaroscuro time in history, alternating light and dark, effervescence and despair, and in this the stars can be a reflection of the human condition. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes in The Little Prince that “All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. ... But all these stars are silent.” His point is that star gazing can make one feel very much alone until there is a perception of the meaning of life, which requires a vision not by the eye but by the heart. Only when Saint Paul was blinded, could he truly see Christ, and it was like tasting stars. Or, as Shakespeare wrote in what can be transposed to a description of Christ the Morning Star: “His face will make the heavens so beautiful that the world will fall in love with the night and forget about the garish sun.”

2020-10-04 - St Michael

2020-10-04 - St Michael

October 4, 2020

4 October 2020

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

Patronal Feast (Transferred)

Matthew 21:33-43 + Homily

14 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 4 October 2020:

  When explorers roamed what was to them a “New World,” they sent back to Europe descriptions of strange vegetation and wildlife, using familiar images to describe the unfamiliar. Spaniards in Peru reported that the llama was an animal with the body of a large sheep, the neck of a camel, and the head of a deer.

   In retrospect these descriptions were pretty good, but only because all material creatures are analogous to each other one way or another. This is not so in the case of purely immaterial and perfectly intelligent beings. There are ranks of them, the most extraordinary of which are called Cherubim and Seraphim, and by the fact of their unlikeness to anything in time and space, some descriptions of them in the Bible can strike us as outrageous: giant wheels the size of the universe covered with unblinking eyes.

   In their ranks, those who are called angels and archangels, meaning messengers of God, get involved in human events. They can show up in our daily commerce while we are unaware (Hebrews 13:2). Limited human art strains to portray their appearance when they choose to become visible. Fra Angelico did this sublimely. But then there was the school of the master stylist Bouguereau who made choirs of angels look like the Folies Bergère.

   Although they have no need of them, angels are often depicted anthropomorphically with wings, because material creatures like us cannot fly without them. But this has its limits, like the mythological Icarus who failed in his flight from Crete because the wax that stuck the feathers to his arms melted. Powerful icons of ageless angels frequently suffered the indignity of being replaced by images of chubby Raphaelite infants. When angels have appeared in time and space, and most importantly to Our Lady, they have had to calm humans down. One cannot imagine a pink and white baby cherub in a state of neglected dress having to say, “Fear not.”

   In 1857, our church was dedicated to the patronage of Saint Michael the Archangel, who was of supernal help during the Civil War draft riots and the burgeoning crime rate. Not for nothing was our neighborhood nicknamed “Hell’s Kitchen.” This year our streets have been under attack during the maliciously orchestrated and funded riots. The holy angels strengthen the classical virtue of “sophrosyne,” which is moral sanity based on reason and temperance, and is the opposite of riotous demagoguery.

   We have the privilege of transferring the Feast of Saint Michael to this Sunday, lighting candles before his statue, whose recently gold-leafed sword, too heavy for chuckling cherubs to wield, points at Satan. That Prince of Pride, and ventriloquist of anarchists, boasted: “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). But Saint Michael declares “Quis ut Deus” which freely translated from the tongues of angels into the vernacular of men, means, “Sorry, Liar. You ain’t God.”   


2020-09-27 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-27 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 27, 2020

27 September 2020

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 21:28-32 + Homily

16 Minutes 37 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 27 September 2020:

“And now for something completely different,” as the entertainment industry is wont to say. Some aspects of liturgical worship are used for reasons that express the psychology of praise. For instance, there are vesture, candles, bells and, especially, holy water. The more that worship is confined to cerebral edification, the less attention is given to the offering of all human senses in the worship of God. After the Protestant schism, the pulpit replaced the altar, and churches became more like lecture halls with comfortable pews for listeners.
   So for something different, consider incense. Puritan influences abandoned what was redolent of sacrifice, and in particular the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which fulfills the symbolic sacrifices within the Temple in Jerusalem, with Christ himself becoming the perfect Sacrifice and the indestructible Temple. As an instance of “the old made new again,” the scent and smoke offered by the priests in Solomon’s courtyard (Psalm 141:2) are perfected in praise of Christ the High Priest. Egeria, the fourth-century indomitable lady pilgrim from Spain, or possibly France, mentioned the incense offered by Christians in Jerusalem at the holy sites. 

   Even after the rejection of the Mass by order of the Tudors, the use of incense lingered in the cathedrals of Ely and York. Incense from the Sarum form of the Latin Rite, which was developed in the eleventh century in Salisbury, continued by force of custom well into the eighteenth century. A canon of the Salisbury cathedral chapter finally eliminated it because he said it affected his breathing, which many considered a poor excuse inasmuch as he took liberal doses of snuff while seated in choir. 

   Ironically, considering the way flaccid celebrants used post-Vatican II liturgical changes as an excuse for neglecting incense, the Novus Ordo rubrics provide unlimited use of incense, while the Extraordinary Form limited it to solemn celebrations. 

   The Magi gave the Holy Child presents of gold and myrrh and the essence of Boswellia serrata, which is the resin known as frankincense. The incense used in church may be pure frankincense or a combination of it with other aromatics, but its base comes from the sap of an arboreal bark, which recent science has discovered has properties that relieve anxiety and depression by activating ion channels in the brain. More importantly, one study at the Jena Friedrich Schiller University in Germany claims that frankincense contains anti-inflammatory substances produced by Boswellic acid, principally the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase, which can alleviate the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Whether its anti-inflammatory properties can thwart the Covid-19 Wuhan Coronavirus is not yet established, mindful of the cautions of the Food and Drug Administration. But burning frankincense reduces airborne bacterial counts by 68%. More important is the office of incense as an earthly hint of worship in heaven, where there are “harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).

2020-09-20 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-20 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 20, 2020

20 September 2020

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 20:1-16A + Homily

19 Minutes 49 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 20 September 2020:

. In our days of widespread inarticulateness, the word “awesome” is so overused that it loses its power. It is rooted in the Old English “egefull,” which means causing profound reverence. So, to call a good dinner or a new dress “awesome” is overkill. Only in the nineteenth century did its equivalent, “awful,” come to mean something bad. It is said that when Queen Anne first saw the completed St. Paul’s Cathedral and told Sir Christopher Wren that it was awful, the architect was moved by the compliment.

   After the patriarch Jacob saw in a dream that ladder reaching to heaven, he cried out, “How awful is this place!” and he called it Bethel, the House of God. He had seen angels ascending and descending on the ladder. It is fitting that the magnificent crucifix suspended from the ceiling in our church should hang over our altar, for in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the angels and saints unite heaven and earth in worship, and Christ makes the Cross a ladder of heavenly access. By it he is able to descend to the altar, True Body and Blood, without diminishing his eternal glory. “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

   Having celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross this past week, the Church remembers that, as Cardinal Gibbons wrote, the veneration of the Cross “is referred to Him who died upon it.” In 787, the Second Council of Nicaea distinguished veneration of the Cross from the worship (“latria”) that belongs to the Divine nature alone. The Cross, as Saint Bonaventure hymned, is the Medicine of the World (“Crux est mundi medicina”) because of the healing power of the crucified Good Physician.

   At a prize fight, when one of the boxers made the sign of the Cross upon entering the ring, a man seated next to me asked sardonically if that meant he was going to win. As a Doctor of Sacred Theology, I felt qualified to reply that it depended on how good a boxer he was. But the awful Crucifix does have power when human intellect and will are consecrated to the Crucified.

   Around 325, Saint Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine (and, before her successful marriage, what we might call a “barista”) and Bishop Macarius, found what they believed to be the True Cross buried under the rubble of a Temple of Venus that had been built by the emperor Hadrian as a profanation of the Holy City. A generation later, Saint Cyril, second successor to Macarius, wrote: “Let us not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. … Make this sign as you eat and drink, when you sit down, when you go to bed, when you get up again, while you are talking, while you are walking: in brief, at your every undertaking.”

2020-09-13 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-13 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 13, 2020

13 September 2020

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 18:21-35 + Homily

16 Minutes 32 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 13 September 2020:

  In our city accustomed to protest demonstrations of all sorts, a recent one was particularly dismaying and even frightening. The anarchistic chants were bad enough, but the frightfulness was in the glazed eyes of the expressionless marchers, like the “pod people” in the 1956 cult film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Carrying signs supplied for them, they chanted refrains called out by a leader as they moved through one of our pricier neighborhoods. As a boy, the black-and-white film was scary, though in later years it was amusing to watch again, but now it has taken on an unsettling reality in the living color of live people. 

   Mind control is a signature of corrupt politics, and George Orwell said that “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” It is easy to appropriate the brains of people who are disturbed or idealistic or both. In the eighteenth century, the physicist and satirist George Lichtenberg volunteered that “The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted.” That is the essential psychology of heresies in religion, and it is also true of platforms in politics. 

   In any election season, when information is twisted by “disinformation,” one can learn with profit the experience of the Church as she has confronted distorters of the Gospel. A vital instance is the way Saint Paul detected the errors among the first Greek Christians on the island of Crete. Being a man of erudition, which his true humility allowed him to remark without affectation, Paul quotes a minor poet of about 600 BC, Epimenides: “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

   Epimenides is the same sage that Paul cites when he speaks to the philosophers of the Areopagus in Athens. The verse sent to Titus is paraphrased by the Apostle in Acts 17, when he speaks of the One “in whom we live and move and have our being.” A discovery of the full text of Epimenides’s poem “Cretica” in the early 1900’s by the formidable English scholar J. Rendel Harris, makes clear that the lying was a specific lie—namely about a tomb built in contradiction to the supposed immortality of Zeus. This resolves what has been called the “Epimenides Paradox:” If Epimenides said that all Cretans are liars, how can we trust Epimenides who was himself a Cretan? But in fact, the deceitfulness of the Cretans was only about trying to entomb immortality.

   Saint Paul invoked the gift of “diakrisis,” which is the discernment of truth from falsehood (1 Corinthians 12:10). Never, and especially not in times of political propaganda, should lies intimidate, so long as one has that discerning gift to know the difference between what comes from Christ, the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), and the talking heads on television.

2020-09-06 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-06 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 6, 2020

6 September 2020

The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 18:15-20 + Homily

16 Minutes 07 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 6 September 2020:

  The Prince of Lies cannot lie in the presence of Christ: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34). And Christ who is the Truth knows him, too: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
   Satan does not want anyone to know him, and yet in the present discontent that afflicts our culture, many anarchists and Marxists invoke him. The desecration of churches and statues of saints is spreading. Twice recently, our own church has been defaced with Satanic symbols: not just the customary obscenities, but invocations of the Prince of Lies. 

   The mystics have known two characteristics of Satan. A Desert Father around 300 A.D., Abba Apollo, had a vision of him: “The devil has no knees. He cannot kneel; he cannot adore; he cannot pray; he can only look down his nose in contempt. Being unwilling to bend the knee at the name of Jesus is the essence of evil.” (cf. Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11) The other malignant quality of the Liar, as revealed to Saint Martin of Tours, is that he can look as attractive as Christ, but he has no wounds. Instead of taking our suffering upon himself, the Anti-Christ inflicts suffering. That is his infernal nourishment and macabre ecstasy. 

   Playing the Devil’s game is dangerous. He has concealed weapons, and the chief of them is deceit. At one recent political convention, a Religious sister from a dying community, in secular dress, prayed not to the Lord, but to “O Divine Spirit” in a way that would have been unobjectionable to a Hindu or an Aztec. With concomitant vagueness, she said that an opinion on the killing of unborn life was above her “pay grade.” At the convention that followed, another Religious in full habit, who is a surgeon and former Army colonel, Sister Deirdre Byrne, made clear that naming the lies of Satan was not above her pay grade as she held her “weapon of choice: the rosary.” 

   The rosary is the most effective private prayer in defying the Liar. The greatest public prayer is the Holy Eucharist. Four years ago in France, two Islamic terrorists sliced the throat of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel at the Altar of Sacrifice. His last words were: “Va-t’en, Satan!” (Be gone, Satan!) Christ had said the same in the wilderness and on the way to his crucifixion (Mark 8:33; Matthew 16:23). 

   Unlike some Catholics, who shy away from mentioning the name of Christ at public gatherings lest they give offense, the evangelist Franklin Graham prayed “In the mighty name of your son, my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Christ himself warned: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). 

2020-08-30 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-08-30 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 30, 2020

30 August 2020

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:21-27 + Homily

16 Minutes 51 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 30 August 2020:

  It is our custom not to have the "From the Pastor" column during the weeks of August. The parish website is still available with general news and information. It is a pleasure to have a community of friends beyond the regular number of our own parishioners. We are grateful for the support of all, especially during these months of “lockdown,” and the resulting financial challenges. In addition to individual gifts, the parish website explains how contributions can be made electronically, providing convenient records for donors. 

  Until the Pastor's Column resumes in September, books by Father Rutler to benefit the parish are available in our church and through the publishers Ignatius Press and Sophia Institute as well as Amazon. In celebration of the August 4 Feast of Saint John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, subscribers may want to read his biography by Father Rutler, The Curé d'Ars Today, published by Ignatius Press.


2020-08-23 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-08-23 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2020

23 August 2020

The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:13-20 + Homily

18 Minutes 50 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 23 August 2020:

  It is our custom not to have the "From the Pastor" column during the weeks of August. The parish website is still available with general news and information. It is a pleasure to have a community of friends beyond the regular number of our own parishioners. We are grateful for the support of all, especially during these months of “lockdown,” and the resulting financial challenges. In addition to individual gifts, the parish website explains how contributions can be made electronically, providing convenient records for donors. 

  Until the Pastor's Column resumes in September, books by Father Rutler to benefit the parish are available in our church and through the publishers Ignatius Press and Sophia Institute as well as Amazon. In celebration of the August 4 Feast of Saint John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, subscribers may want to read his biography by Father Rutler, The Curé d'Ars Today, published by Ignatius Press.











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