Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-12-06 - Advent II

2020-12-06 - Advent II

December 6, 2020

6 December 2020

The Second Sunday of Advent

Mark 1:1-8 + Homily

15 Minutes 15 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120620.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Note: A substitute priest celebrated Mass and preached today. The attached homily is from 10 December 2017, Advent II, using the same readings as today.

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 6 December 2020: 

 (Adapted from December 6, 2015*) 

  During the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, a relatively unknown figure, the Archbishop of Krakow and future Pope John Paul II, said: “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society, or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church . . . must take up, and face courageously.” 

   Those words in Philadelphia certainly were as prophetic as the voices in Judea thousands of years ago. In the subsequent generation, crammed with breathtaking events of universal and historic significance, heroic and tragic, we can count the manifold ways in which that future pope seemed to see the judgment of God at work. 

   The Second Sunday of Advent points attention to two kinds of judgment. First, and most immediate for the human condition, is the particular judgment each of us will experience at the moment of death, when our life passes before us. Christ as Judge makes no arbitrary decisions, but instead avails himself as the measure of our compatibility with his love. The other judgment is the social judgment of the whole world. This will happen at the end of time when all created things and time and space themselves will end. There was an intimation of this in the earthquake when Christ died on the cross, as prelude to his resurrection when he could “die no more” (Romans 6:9).  

   Confronting the Judge, we have the option of two kinds of fear. The first is the perplexity of the person who knows only self-love and has lived life as though the self were God. The second is the joyful awe sensed by the person who has loved God and neighbor as much as the self.  

   In the moral order, people have to make judgments for the sake of sanity, but those judgments must be based on standards outside one’s sentiments, similar to the way we measure objects according to the standards set by the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Jesus submitted to the judgment of Pontius Pilate, and by so doing, he took on the suffering of those who are wrongly judged.  

   Jesus did not deny Pilate’s right to pass judgment; rather, he reminded Pilate that he was answerable to a higher authority: “You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above” (John 19:11). The command not to judge others is about defining justice without accountability to God. “He who rejects me and does not receive my words, has one who judges him; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:48). 

 

*During this season we shall run columns from A Year with Father Rutler, published by Sophia Press

 

2020-11-29 - Advent I

2020-11-29 - Advent I

November 29, 2020

29 November 2020

The First Sunday of Advent

Mark 13:33-37 + Homily

13 Minutes 42 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Note: A substitute priest celebrated Mass and preached today. The attached homily is from 3 December 2017, Advent I, using the same readings as today.

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 29 November 2020: 

 (Adapted from November 29, 2009*) 

 The season of Advent is lyrically beautiful if one is willing to engage the realities it teaches: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. The alternative is to create a parallel universe, partying in a faux Christmas confection of jingle bells, dancing elves, self-conscious bonhomie, and ignoring the Incarnation of God. T.S. Eliot belabored the obvious in saying, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” 

   Reality, nonetheless, has the last say. Advent focuses on the reality of life as a sacred gift from God, and not a morally indifferent biological accident to be manipulated by human will. Pope Paul VI was scorned for saying this in his prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae, whose predictions have been realized with frightening rapidity. The first illusion it condemned was artificial contraception as morally good. Those cultures that ignored reality are entering what the European Union now admits is a demographic “catastrophe.” The dwindling population rate is leading to the collapse of social welfare benefits and the bankruptcy of Europe’s cradle-to-grave welfare state. The cradles are emptying as fast as the graves are filling. 

   A report presented to the European Parliament by the Institute for Family Policies says, “Europe is plunged in an unprecedented demographic winter and has become an elderly continent, with a large birth deficit, fewer marriages and more of them broken, homes emptying.” The report projects there will be 27 million fewer Europeans by 2050, with every third inhabitant over 65. Unspoken is the effect of Islamic immigration to fill the vacancies and replace European civilization. What is chillingly unreal about the report is its acceptance of those eugenic policies that brought on the catastrophe. Our own nation is on the edge of entering the same illusory world of a bright future that ignores the facts of life. 

   From a secular perspective, Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin has written about the harm done to children by the “Marriage-Go-Round” in the United States. Marriage has become a status symbol rather than an essential core of society. Marriages in our country are even more ephemeral than in Europe. After just five years of marriage, 23 percent of Americans had separated or divorced, compared with 12 percent in West Germany, 8 percent in Great Britain, and 3 percent in Italy. Dr. Cherlin’s approach is utilitarian and ultimately defeatist: “I think our best hope is to find better ways of coping with the culture we have.” 

   Christ does not call us to cope with the culture, but to transform it. Transformation happened in a decaying Roman Empire and it can happen in our quaking modern imperium, but only by facing reality. In their November 2009 annual conference, the US bishops issued a pastoral letter on marriage, which realistically spoke of good and evil. It is already being criticized by the sorts who mocked Humanae Vitae. But they are growing very grey. 

 

*During this season we shall run columns from A Year with Father Rutler, published by Sophia Press

 

2020-11-22 - Christ the King

2020-11-22 - Christ the King

November 22, 2020

22 November 2020

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Matthew 25:31-46 + Homily

17 Minutes 45 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112220.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Note: A substitute priest celebrated Mass and preached today. The attached homily is from 26 November 2017, the Solemnity of Christ the King, using the same readings as today.

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 22 November 2020: 

  These days I am frequently asked if we are living in the “End Times.” As the grace of Holy Orders does not make me a seer, I defer, as is prudent, to the King of Universe: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). So the answer simply is that we do not know, but as the Coast Guard’s “Semper Paratus” motto exhorts, we must constantly be prepared. That vigilance is contingent on everyone’s immediate obligation to be recollect for the end of one’s own life. For the Christian, this is a stimulus to faith rather than neurosis. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6

  The prophets were not like the boy who cried “Wolf!” They were inspired by God to tell what he wants his people to know about spiritual readiness, so that his kingly rule is that of a shepherd guiding his flock through the variables of human experience. In the film The Lion in Winter, Katharine Hepburn as Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, remarks with regal resignation about her dysfunctional family: “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” Christ’s family the Church has always had its ups and downs, often big time, and many times it has been the lamentable case that the Shepherd King is tasked with herding cats rather than sheep

  The Church began with a crucifixion when no one expected a resurrection. That sequence of death and life is repeated time and again. There were the persecutions under so many Caesars, heresies with volatile schisms in consequence, sieges, desecrations, destructions, corruptions and civilly institutionalized blasphemies. But each of these crucifixions was followed by a resurrection. This is to be remembered when distress in the Church is accompanied by a confluence of unrest and fear in politics and pandemics. Through it all, the Carthusian motto grows ever more stolid and incontestable: “Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis”—the Cross stands steady while the world revolves. This is most vivid when the revolving world seems to be whirling out of control

  On November 5, the ninety-year-old Cardinal Tumi of Cameroon was briefly kidnapped by separatists who demanded that he endorse their propaganda. He told his captors that he must preach only what is true: “Nobody has the right to tell me to preach the contrary because I was called by God.” In every cultural crisis, this is the kind of witness that transcends any attempt to speculate about the end of the world, for it takes its strength from the assurance that Christ Crucified in Jerusalem is also Christ the King of the Universe

His dominion is an everlasting dominion  
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14) 

2020-11-15 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-11-15 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 15, 2020

15 November 2020

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 25:14-30 + Homily

21 Minutes 03 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/111520.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Note: A substitute priest celebrated Mass and preached today. The attached homily is from 19 November 2017, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, using the same readings as today.

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 15 November 2020:

  Several of our Lord’s parables have to do with productivity in one form or another: The Sower, The Mustard Seed, The Tares, and then there is today’s, which is specifically about money (Matthew 25:14-30). In Greek currency, a talanton, as a measure of silver, was the equivalent of 6,000 Roman denarii. Establishing modern equivalences of money is notoriously difficult, but since a single denarius was worth a day’s wages, the value of a talent was great. 

   This parable is about more than wealth management. In English, the word “talent” is an insightful pun, because this is about investing whatever spiritual graces God gives “to each according to his ability.”  

  Thus, the expression “Keep the Faith” has its limits, because the same Faith that is to be kept and cherished in our hearts, can only flourish if it is spread to others. Even in mercantile economics, as St. John Paul II taught in the encyclical Centesimus Annus, wealth is not the product of static human resources, but of human creativity in their use. And the greatest resource is life itself. 

   Three men are given different talents, which the first two put to work and by their investments make a profit. The third, whose fear of his master is more on the order of servile fear, which causes timidity, rather than the holy fear that engenders courage, is overly cautious and can only excuse himself by telling his master, “I knew you to be a hard man.” He becomes the spokesman for timorous sorts who apply human psychology to Christ, whose judgments are just, as if that justice excluded productive mercy. 

   This is an illuminating wisdom in these dark days of our nation, when the temptation might be for Christ’s disciples to be discouraged and for the Church Militant to seek shelter from a tempestuous culture. By way of metaphor, one is reminded of the highly decorated British general, Leslie Rundle (GCB, GCMG, GCVO, DSO, etc.). This estimable man engaged combats from the Zulu War through the First World War. A man of caution and deliberation, he was careful to protect the lives of his soldiers, for which they were understandably grateful. He was a well-intentioned exemplar of the dictum of Shakespeare’s less exemplary Falstaff: “The better part of Valor is Discretion.” But that can be overdone. While Rundle took few risks, he may have occasionally lost the chance to charge forward into enemy ranks. 

   Then there was the dithering figure of General McClellan, who lost opportunities at Antietam. An exasperated Lincoln telegraphed him: “If General McClellan does not want to use the Army, I would like to borrow it for a time, provided I could see how it could be made to do something.” It would be terrible in our conflicted times, to hear our Lord say that to us.

2020-11-08 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-11-08 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 8, 2020

8 November 2020

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 25:1-13 + Homily

17 Minutes 13 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110820.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

Note: A substitute priest celebrated Mass and preached today. The attached homily is from 12 November 2017, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, using the same readings as today.

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 8 November 2020:

  In the late nineteenth century, a New England college dean wrote: “The youth who loves his Alma Mater will always ask, not ‘What can she do for me?’ but ‘What can I do for her?’” One of his students, a clergyman named George St. John, paraphrased that as a locution to boys when he became headmaster of the Choate School in Connecticut: “Ask not what your school can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for your school.” One of the boys who heard that in the 1930s, John F. Kennedy, made the diction more resonant in his inaugural address of 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Although he had speechwriters of acumen, one will not gainsay naïve clients of Kennedy for pillaging what was not his own. As Anatole France said, “When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it.” 

   Today those lines could not be uttered approvingly by the political party to which Kennedy belonged. Because of the exigencies of copy editors, I am writing these lines before the national election, so I refrain from predicting the various state votes. But as a client of Saint Michael the Archangel, who is the patron of my parish, I am confident that this election, because the issues it is engaging are of the highest portent for our moral order, will have results that transcend the consequences of customary politics. This election will have exposed the corruption of the mainstream and social media, by their acquiescence to subjective journalism and the wanton censorship of reports of inconvenient scandals in high places.  

   Holy Church has been under attack, as borne witness by the need for armed security guards in our sanctuaries. Our own church in Hell’s Kitchen has been assigned armed security guards. This is not just a political assault, for the brutal killing of Christians worshipping in France shows the hatred of Christ, who said in words as thrilling as they are ominous: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:11). “…for My sake.” All that we do, in every aspect of life, and in every moment of the day, if done for His sake, will reap an unimaginable reward. 

   If we want things only for ourselves, they will fester in the soul, confusing the intellect and weakening the will, but if we want the good of others that will redound to the good of Church and Nation. Abundant are the demagogues who would promise what the government will give man, but they offer it in return for our souls. For Christians, it is a choice between Mother Church and Nanny State. That could be a costly exchange. 

2020-11-01 - All Saints Day

2020-11-01 - All Saints Day

November 1, 2020

1 November 2020

Solemnity of All Saints

Matthew 5:1-12A + Homily

19 Minutes 28 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110120.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 1 November 2020:

  The wife of a most distinguished oil painter who taught at the Art Students League for many decades, having started there as a boy with a scholarship given by Mayor LaGuardia, told me that he had “perfect pitch” when it came to mixing his palette. She also confided that he never painted autumnal scenes of leaves at full peak because the colors are so brilliant that on canvas they would seem artificial. In my brief tutelage under him, I found his happiness in his work contagious. But the most important thing I learned was that lesson about the natural outdoing artifice. And this can be taken a step further with reference to God’s grace which, as Aquinas said, does not destroy nature but perfects it, despite our limitations. 

   In other words, if the best human talent cannot replicate the highest beauties of nature, we cannot expect to be more than heroic on our own. Saints are not superhuman. Sanctity is simply the state of the virtues lived to an intensity beyond unaided human effort. This gift is available to all who allow God to infuse their lives with the love that made them. “I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul of Tarsus was not less who he was, but more than he had been, when that change happened. It is rather like Yehudi Menuhin’s violin; for when a lady said that his violin “made such a beautiful sound” he placed his ear to it and said that he heard nothing. Divine grace is to the human being what human talent is to the instrument of wood and strings. 

   This explains why saints experience such transporting joy commingled with suffering: Living a life of grace makes the gracelessness of a fallen world more painful for them than it does for others who have passively adjusted to it. To continue the theme of aesthetics, I am reminded of how William F. Buckley, who could do many but not all things well, showed Chagall a picture he had painted, only to hear that master groan, “The poor paint!” 

   Perhaps that gives a sense of the divine wrath caused by God’s contemplation of lives that have neglected to let him be in them. Think of what Attila the Hun or Mao Tse-tung might have accomplished had they accepted the Gospel. Conversely, one dreads to think what evil Aquinas might have caused if he had used his brilliance to tell lies, or what desolation Teresa of Calcutta might have spread by twisting her fame to propagate eugenics. 

   The Feast of All Saints celebrates those who show us what we may or may not become by showing what we can be. 

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:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/102520.cfm

(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:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101820.cfm

(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:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101120.cfm

(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:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092920.cfm

(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.”   

 

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