Father George William Rutler Homilies
2018-03-30 - Good Friday - The Passion According to John

2018-03-30 - Good Friday - The Passion According to John

March 30, 2018

30 March 2018

Good Friday - The Passion According to John

John 18:1-19:42

23 Minutes 58 Seconds

(Note: There is no homily on Good Friday.)

2018-03-30 - Good Friday - Meditations on the Seven Last Words

2018-03-30 - Good Friday - Meditations on the Seven Last Words

March 30, 2018

30 March 2018

Good Friday - Mediations on the Seven Last Words

2 Hours 10 Minutes

  1. Father, forgive them, for they know what they do.
  2. Today thou shalt be with me in paradise. (at approximately 24:17)
  3. Woman behold thy son. Son behold thy Mother. (at approximately 46:07)
  4. My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me? (at approximately 1:03)
  5. I thirst. (at approximately 1:23)
  6. It is finished. (at approximately 1:44)
  7. Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit. (at approximately 2:01)


2018-03-29 Holy Thursday

2018-03-29 Holy Thursday

March 29, 2018

29 March 2018

Holy Thursday - Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

John 13:1-15 + Homily

13 Minutes 5 Seconds

2018-03-25 - Palm Sunday

2018-03-25 - Palm Sunday

March 25, 2018

25 March 2018

Passion (Palm) Sunday

The Passion According to St. Mark 14:1-15:47 + Homily

27 Minutes 12 Seconds

[Note: The brief homily begins around 25:23.]

(From the parish bulletin)

   Ralph Waldo Emerson had moments more perceptive than his vague religiosity: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” He spoke not of consistency itself, but of a “foolish” consistency. As True God and True Man, Christ was perfectly consistent, but from the platform of a fallen world, that consistency could seem inconsistent.

   Consider how reluctant he was to let his divinity be known. He spoke of it cryptically in the synagogue at Nazareth, but insinuated enough to enrage his neighbors. Then he went into hiding. When he healed the leprous and blind, he ordered them sternly to tell no one. When he cured the paralytic at the Siloam Pool, he slipped into the shadows of the Temple like a fugitive. And he sternly ordered Peter and James and John not to reveal what they had seen on the mountain.

   Was it inconsistent then that he made a spectacle of himself when he entered Jerusalem? It was a flagrant publicity stunt, encouraging the cheers of children who enjoyed a good show: with a theatrical entrance foolish enough for some to mock him with a crown of thorns, and shocking enough for others to cut his nerves with nails on a cross. If he was so reticent, why did he suddenly burst into the city in a way that seemed to some like a circus come to town, and to others like an anarchist about to blow everything up?

   God is not inconsistent to those who listen carefully: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). With a consistency more perfect than human consistency, because it is from outside time, the hour of which he spoke at the Wedding in Cana had come, and the only clock that could measure it was his Love. His human will dreaded that hour, but his divine will embraced it, and in that valiant act, the selfish pride that brought sin and death in the world was confused, confounded, and ultimately washed away in blood.

   Jesus said that if the children singing to him were silenced, “the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:4). Here in our neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, the great glass skyscrapers now rising all around may seem indifferent, but the energy and skill that are building them cry out in testimony to God who gave life and intelligence. Dante read over the gates of Hell: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate—“Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” By entering the gates of Jerusalem, Christ opened the gates of Heaven where hope is fulfilled. That is God’s perfect consistency. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And belifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7).

2018-03-18 Fifth Sunday of Lent

2018-03-18 Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2018

18 March 2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 12:20-33 + Homily 19 Minutes 4 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

There are those of us who remember how as schoolboys, the clever use of rhythmic dactyls in Virgil's metrical Latin verses made unforgettable the sound of horses galloping. And one of my schoolmates gained fleeting fame when our French teacher announced that, as our classmate was recovering from an appendectomy, the first words he whispered as he came out of the anesthesia were from a line in LaFontaine's fable about the Crow and the Fox: "Maître Corbeau sur un arbre perché . . ." 

   Fables have always been entertaining ways to teach children to remember moral wisdom. LaFontaine in the late 17th century drew on stories of Aesop, a Greek slave in the fifth century before Christ. Many of those fables in the Aesopica were adopted along the way in Welsh (Chwedlau Odo—“Odo’s Tales”), Middle Low German, and even Middle Scots. Moral truths have no national borders or chronological barriers. Everyone in any place can learn a lesson from Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, in which the tortoise defies all odds and wins the race because the hare was so smug that it took a nap.

   The parables of our Lord are different from fables, for they are about people, while fables make animals talk. Fables enliven moral consciences while Christ’s parables make moral points but also direct attention to eternal realities. When our Lord says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .” he describes a heavenly reality, and not a fantasy.

   Commissioned as an apostle of the Good News, Saint Paul wrote: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). This race is not a fable about tortoises and hares. Those are illusions, but Paul’s race is an allusion. He is speaking of real people in Corinth, where the Isthmian Games took place before and after the Olympic Games, and whose winner received a crown of wild celery instead of the Olympic olive leaf. And celery leaves fade fast.

   Lent is a microcosm of life in its entirety, with all its trials. When Saint Paul speaks of discipline, he employs a Greek word used for wrestling and any struggle for victory—agonia, from which we get agony. The Anti-Christ wants us to surrender the race and tries to persuade us that life is nothing but agony without a prize. His plot is to discourage, while Christ’s Holy Church is constantly encouraging, through the Sacraments and the heavenly cheerleaders called saints and angels. Saint John Vianney was convinced of a fact more fabulous than a fable: “Not all the saints started well, but all of them ended well.”

2018-03-11 Fourth Sunday of Lent

2018-03-11 Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2018

11 March 2018

Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3:14-21 + Homily 16 Minutes 6 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

The tears of our Lord gazing on Jerusalem, cannot be separated from his violent whipping of the moneychangers in the Temple the next day. Both were acts of love, for he saw how the Holy City had been profaned, and he saw that profanation most glaring in the House of God itself. The word “profane” means to be “outside the holy place.” Distancing oneself from holiness is at its worst when it takes place in a sacred space: “. . . your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit . . .” 1 Corinthians 6:19. Philologists say that use of the term “profane” has declined about 80% in the last two centuries. Because Christ knew what Heaven is like, the fracturing of its reflection on earth was not a mere annoyance. It provoked him to wailing and whipping.

The violent cleansing of the Temple was an instance of righteous anger, using the strength of temper. Sinful anger, on the other hand, is a loss of that temper. Christ’s righteous anger at the Anti-Christ was far different from the crowd’s anger at Christ.

Observers of the human condition remark how our society seems so angry. Political debates degenerate into shouting matches; comedians abandon wit for coarseness; commentators on websites let loose all sorts of invectives. Unrighteous anger is anger for its own sake—rather like Homer’s Achilles who supposedly was angry at the Trojans, but in fact was angry at the world, shouting down King Agamemnon and even cursing a river when it did not flow his way.

The Ten Commandments temper passion like tempering steel. An intemperate society turns those Commandments backwards: worshiping false gods, blaspheming, killing, lusting, stealing, envying and coveting. It is no coincidence, for instance, that in the past fifty years, with their precipitous decline in moral certitudes, teen suicides have increased nearly 500%, and violent entertainments rival ancient blood lust. The anger of young men in street gangs, is not the anger of the young Christ with a whip.

Trying to correct this without God inevitably fails. When Hollywood personalities, having profited so long from intemperance, suddenly affect the mantle of righteousness, the result is hypocrisy instead of salvation, with witch hunts instead of reform. In his novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the ambiguity of the Puritans: “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” Hawthorne’s daughter Rose, the widow of an intemperate husband, became a Dominican religious and founded a community for the care of dying cancer patients.

Sinful anger makes people into cowards, succumbing to the fads of the mob rather than the Gospel of Christ, which is why St. Gregory of Nyssa called that kind of anger a twisting of courage. It makes one a bully instead of a hero.

2018-03-04 Third Sunday of Lent

2018-03-04 Third Sunday of Lent

March 4, 2018

4 March 2018

Third Sunday of Lent

John 2:13-25 + Homily 18 Minutes 48 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

   In March of 1937, Pope Pius XI issued two encyclicals within five days of each other. Mit Brennender Sorge condemned National Socialism, and Divini Redemptoris condemned Communism. These ideologies, attacking human dignity and replacing God with the power of the self-justifying State, were two sides of the same coin. That is a figure of speech. It is not a figure of speech to say that Christ was crucified between two thieves. Throughout their harsh history, the Slavic countries have known what it is like to be so crucified. The power of Saint John Paul II was burnished by his youthful experience of suffering in Poland under the Nazis, only then to endure Marxism. So too were the travails of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary and Cardinal Stepinac in Croatia.

   My Lenten reading has included a biography of Aloyius Stepinac, who became archbishop of Zagreb six months after those papal encyclicals were published. He had been consecrated a bishop in 1934, just four months before his King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, on a state visit to France, was assassinated in Marseilles along with the French foreign minister. Alexander was a king kind and good, and such men are not invariably treated kindly and well. The diplomatic hopes for the unity of the Croatian and Serbian peoples began to unravel. The study of Balkan history is not for the weak of heart. Nor is the study of the Croatian language. One begins with the complicated accent marks for pronunciation, and things get worse from there.

   Cardinal Stepinac now has a fine high school in our archdiocese named for him, albeit not pronounced “Stepinatz” as he did. His sufferings for five years after World War II in the frightening Communist prison of Lepoglava got the attention of the world. During that Cold War period, conflicting sides either championed him or vilified him, depending on their political inclinations. Some tried to protect the reputation of his persecutor Marshal Tito, just as the journalist Walter Duranty had protected Stalin in his accounts of Soviet forced famine and show trials on the pages of The New York Times.

   Saint John Paul II knew the complicated loyalties and demands of those difficult years. No one, and certainly no nation, is angelic, but in 1998 at the shrine of Marija Bistrica, before half a million people, Pope John Paul II beatified Aloysius Stepinac as a martyr.

   Stepinac had accepted the cardinalatial hat knowing that its red means blood, and is not just an excuse for a party as it sometimes is regarded in decadent times. Some pedants with a political bias complained that the tortured Stepinac did not smile much. But by papal decree, Holy Mother Church is now smiled upon by that successor of the holy Apostles. Walking along the road to Jerusalem these days of Lent, the faithful invoke the saints to cheer them along the way, and among them is Aloysius Stepinac.

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