Father George William Rutler Homilies
2017-12-31 - Holy Family

2017-12-31 - Holy Family

December 31, 2017

31 December 2017

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Luke 2:22-40 + Homily

18 Minutes 23 Seconds

 

From the Bulletin

[This week the regular pastor's column yields to Saint Gregory Nazienzen, whose feast is January 2.]

   The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like.

   He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; his coming to birth had to be treated with honour, virginity had to receive new honour. He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.

   He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

   Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son. The Son arranged this for the honour of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.

   The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice. When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven.

   Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him. The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom’s friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit.

   We needed God to take our flesh and die, that we might live. We have died with him, that we may be purified. We have risen again with him, because we have died with him. We have been glorified with him, because we have risen again with him.

 

 

2017-12-24 Christmas Mass During the Night

2017-12-24 Christmas Mass During the Night

December 24, 2017

24 December 2017

Christmas Mass During the Night

Luke 2:1-14 + Homily

12 Minutes 27 Seconds

2017-12-24 - Advent IV  - Luke 1:26-38 + Homily 16 MInutes 47 Seconds

2017-12-24 - Advent IV - Luke 1:26-38 + Homily 16 MInutes 47 Seconds

December 24, 2017

From the Bulletin - 24 December 2017

Saint Paul was converted by the risen Christ, who appeared as a blinding light. Later, he would meet Peter and James who had seen the actual risen body, which had changed from the way it appeared during Christ’s three years with them. 

   The body of the resurrected Christ had four characteristics. First, it could no longer feel pain. This “impassibility” was a triumph over the horrors of the Passion. Second, by “subtlety” the body was no longer subject to the laws of physics. During his earthly life, Christ had to knock on doors to enter, but in the Resurrection, he could appear in a room though the doors were locked. Third, the “agility” of Christ’s body had a strength that freed him from the constraints of motion and enabled him to bi-locate. Fourth, the “clarity” of the risen body radiated a brilliance that emanated from the divine intelligence: “light from light.” This was glimpsed in the Transfiguration, and was what blinded Paul on the Damascus road.

   These lines would seem to be an Easter meditation, but they are a Christmas meditation as well, for the two mysteries are inseparable. Without the Resurrection, the Nativity would be just another birthday, for even extraordinary people like Alexander the Great or Mozart had ordinary births. Because Christ is the Divine Word who created all things, the restrictions of his human nature are no less wonderful than the glory of his divine nature.

   The infant in Bethlehem was not impassible: he hungered and cried like any other baby. Without subtlety, he was confined to the stable. While in the Resurrection his agility could cast aside the shroud, in the manger he was bound by swaddling clothes. And as for clarity, his infant body could be glimpsed in the darkness only by frail lamplight. As he has no beginning and no end, his divine glory was not something he attained as he grew up: rather, it was what he allowed to dim when he came into time and space. He “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

   So Christmas is about two caves, and the birth in a stone stable would be only a sentimental reverie without the fact of the burial cave burst open. The Holy Infant in the manger is a kind of graphic hint for our limited intelligence, of the indescribable Ruler and Judge of the Universe. And the qualities of his risen body intimated what he would let us become in eternity.

   That youngest of the apostles wrote in his old age: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when he appears, we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is” (1 John 3:2).

2017-12-17 - Advent III - John 1:1-8, 19-28

2017-12-17 - Advent III - John 1:1-8, 19-28

December 17, 2017

Saint Catherine of Siena said that all the way to Heaven is already Heaven for those who love the Lord. To keep Advent is to peek into Heaven especially on “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday,” when we rejoice at what is about to happen. This glimmer of light prefiguring the Light coming into the world has exquisite poignancy.

Let us not be selfish: Christmas is for the faithful departed as well as for those still in time and space. There need be no sadness at Christmas when we remember our forebears who are no longer at our table, for in the Holy Eucharist we are united with “the whole company” who are with the Lord.

This brings to mind one of our own, Bishop Jean Dubois, the third bishop of New York who died in 1842 on December 20, after nearly seventeen years of arduous labor serving the entire state of New York and much of New Jersey with the help of just eighteen priests. He founded churches and institutions, including a seminary and two future universities.

Jean Dubois was trained in Paris just when the French Revolution rose up with diabolical furor against the Church. A chief architect of the Reign of Terror, which slaughtered countless priests and nuns, was Robespierre who tried to replace Catholicism with a “Cult of the Supreme Being,” declaring on May 7, 1794 that “priests are to morality what charlatans are to medicine.”  Nonetheless, Robespierre had been a friendly classmate of Dubois in the 

Collège Louis le Grand and, old school ties being strong, he disguised Dubois and helped him to escape. Ironically, Robespierre would be beheaded on his own guillotine.

With letters commendatory from Lafayette, Dubois made it to America where he lived with future president James Monroe. There had been two bishops of New York, both Dominicans living in Rome: Concanen who was impeded by the Napoleonic blockade of Naples; and Connolly, who worked himself to death establishing parishes. The small but growing numbers of Catholics were opposed to a “foreign” bishop, for they did not appreciate that the Church Universal is also international. The Irish objected that their new bishop spoke French-accented English, this in spite of the fact that the English tutor of Dubois, Patrick Henry, had been impressed by his proficiency. The bishop’s claim that Saint Patrick was French further irritated his flock.

After many trials, Bishop Dubois asked to be buried under the front steps of the old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, so that people could “walk on me in death, as they did when I was living.”

At Christmas, gift giving also requires that we accept gifts from the Lord, and among them is the gift of those who served him in this world and who join us at the altar every day.

“Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations” (Sirach 44:1).

2017-12-10 - Advent II - Mark 1:1-8

2017-12-10 - Advent II - Mark 1:1-8

December 17, 2017

As a chaplain in a state mental hospital, I quickly learned two things. First, sometimes it was easy to mistake a psychiatrist for one of the patients. Second, and more importantly, the mentally ill can be highly intelligent. If one begins with an illogical premise, one may convincingly make a fallacy seem cogent. An unfortunate man in a locked ward who thinks he is Napoleon Bonaparte can almost convince a visitor that he is there because he lost the battle of Waterloo.

Insanity is not a lack of brains; it is a lack of judgment. The Second Sunday of Advent focuses on the right use of reason, in preparation for the coming of Christ the Logos, the source of all creation. He is the Righteous Judge because he is supremely logical, and it would be a form of madness not to expect the Logos to be so. 

Our society has employed cleverness to justify moral madness, rationalizing a radical overhaul of social order as “hope and change.” George Orwell anticipated this in his “doublethink” which means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and accepting both of them, so that, for instance, ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery. Currently there are those who call censored speech “freedom of speech” and redistribution of wealth “income equality,” and who varnish anarchy as “resistance.” Infanticide is responsible parenthood, infidelity is independence, decadence is progress, common sense is bias, and natural law is hate speech. When the modern moral collapse euphemized as “sexual liberation” redefined vice as freedom, defective judgment unleashed a host of contradictions, so that the very institutions that promoted libertinism affect to be scandalized when celebrities are revealed to have done precisely what the euphemizers wanted. Like Casablanca’s Captain Renault they are “Shocked! Shocked!”

“Doublethinkers” cannot cope with the consequences of their manipulation of logic. Immature students riot when a professor disagrees with them, and voters scream at the sky when an election does not go their way. Their intolerance calls itself tolerance, but it is the false kind of tolerance which, as Chesterton said, is the virtue of the man without convictions.

The same people who ask “Who am I to judge?” judge right judgment to be tactlessly judgmental, and they politicize the judiciary to appoint justices who will usurp the function of legislators. Certainly, our Lord forbids any attempt to judge the human heart or the fate of a soul (Matthew 7:2), but blurring the line between right and wrong, which the theologians call antinomianism, turns an entire culture into a raucous asylum. 

“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 3:18).

2017-12-03 - First Sunday of Advent - Mark 13:33-37

2017-12-03 - First Sunday of Advent - Mark 13:33-37

December 3, 2017

The explanation for your sense of expectation is that you have an imagination. Unlike animals guided by instinct, we can imagine past and future. Advent is the time of expectation. Since Christ is not limited by time, he can be born again in our lives at every Christmas.

Expectation requires thinking about the four most important matters of existence: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. These are the primary mysteries that arrest the attention of minds awake, more compelling than holiday shopping and attempts at partying before Christmas begins.

To look at death at the start of Advent is what we do on a small scale when we look at the end of anything, whether it be the end of the day or the end of some project we have been working on, or even the end of a movie or a song. The question is: Does the end of life have a purpose? C.S. Lewis answered that in a typically lucid way: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

Along with the sense of expectation is the intuition that what is expected is more vital than what we now have. On the day after Christmas in 1941, Winston Churchill stood before the joint houses of Congress and spoke of “. . . my life, which is already long, and has not been entirely uneventful.” Then a full twenty-four years later, his dying words were: “I’m bored with it all.” That was really wonderful because, though skeptical about the Gospel, he knew that things as they are, are not enough. He was a bit like Benjamin Franklin who, while far from an orthodox Christian, playfully wrote his own epitaph as a printer, comparing himself to a worn old book: “For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more, In a new and more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended, By the Author.”

There is a worthy movement now to rebuild the lamented old Pennsylvania Station, constructed on the site of our original church. That church was destroyed in 1963, in the arrogant period when many classical churches were wrecked by misguided liturgical experts who shared the modern contempt for anything old. The restoration of the old station would cost about $3.5 billion, an immense amount but small change compared to the $20 billion of innocuous glass boxes rising around us in the Hudson Yards development.

Jesus spoke of rebuilding the Herodian Temple in three days (John 2:19). That was at the price of his own blood, for he was speaking of his body. He did raise it. And he can do the same for us.