Father George William Rutler Homilies
2018-12-30 - Holy Family

2018-12-30 - Holy Family

December 30, 2018

30 January 2018

Feast of the Holy Family of

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Luke 2:41-52 + Homily

15 Minutes 11Seconds

Link to the Readings

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)


(from the parish bulletin)

   Christians in the Indian state of Kerala are about 20% of the population. An amateur film recorded there shows some workers struggling with a power shovel to rescue a baby elephant from a ditch. I do not know if they were Christians, Hindus, Muslims or a mix, but they succeeded. The happy juvenile dashed back to its herd, and as the adult elephants formed a line to depart, they raised their trunks in salute to the rescuers. That was one example of their enigmatic sensibility. That they have long memories is no myth: they can remember watering holes from years back; they can communicate by subsonic rumbles along the ground faster than sound can travel through air; they have rituals for mourning their dead; and they peacefully spend sixteen hours a day eating, which is more than the average New Yorker.

   Every creature has gifts that science is gradually discovering, such as the almost mathematically improbable migratory habits of penguins and the telescopic vision of hawks. These are prodigies of God’s extravagant love. The Christ Child arranged to be born in a makeshift menagerie rather than in a hotel where pets might not have been allowed. This Child “. . . is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature . . .  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:15, 17). Animals at least could provide some body warmth, which in that fragile first moment of the Child’s exposed human nature was more important than any rhetoric, and more practical than the lofty song of angels.

   It may not be too fanciful to think that, as a donkey can live up to forty years, God’s providence might have arranged for a donkey in that stable to be the one that the Child grown into manhood rode into Jerusalem. At least it was some donkey, that with its hellish bray and flapping ears looked like the “devil’s walking parody” as Chesterton said, but equipped for that final triumph with “a shout about my ears, / And palms before my feet.” In 1898 Kaiser Wilhelm II entered Jerusalem on a white horse. In 1917 General Allenby pointedly entered on foot. A scraggly donkey was the most royal beast, for the rarest jewel of rulers is humility. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

   Perhaps at Christ’s coming, with their sensory gifts we cannot yet fully understand, the animals in the stable knew more about the Holy Child than humans realize. In that first Christmas moment, they were able to do what only saints in heaven can do, for they gazed upon the face of God.

   “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

2018-12-23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

2018-12-23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 23, 2018

23 December 2018

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:39-45 + Homily

15 Minutes 47 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA Version

(New American Bible Revised Edition)


(from the parish bulletin)

  The darkening that comes with the year’s shortest hours of daylight is like the lowering of the lights in a theatre as the play is about to begin. But in the “Drama of Salvation” by which the human race is offered the promise of restoration to its original glory, “all the world’s a stage,” and the acts and actors are real. The creation of the world was not a mere myth, otherwise we would not be here. Nor are good and evil abstractions, for they always have had real consequences.  

   One of the most dramatic events in the progress of man, to which Saint Jude would later allude (Jude 1:7), was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah about 1,700 years before the birth of Christ. He knew that the story of that destruction was not the sheer theatrics of fiction. Until recently, it was convenient for some scholars to pass it off as an instructive legend. Archeologists in a symposium this past month concluded that those cities north of the Dead Sea were utterly destroyed, and their land became uninhabitable for the next six hundred years. The substantial theory is that upwards of 60,000 inhabitants were wiped out by a meteor exploding at low altitude with the force of a ten-megaton bomb, dropping platinum and molten lava on the larger area called Middle Ghor, and unleashing a temperature the same as the sun. 

   Wise ones interpreted this as punishment for the corruption of that culture. There is a symbiosis between matter and morality. When souls are disordered, there are consequences in all creation. So it was, that at the climax of the Drama of Salvation, when Christ died on the cross, the sky grew black.  

   It has been quipped that if God does not punish our culture for its decadence and contempt for natural law, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. It was to save us from total destruction that the Word, whose utterance brought all things into being, became flesh and then appeared on a day now called Christmas. 

   Twice did our Lord speak of Sodom, saying that its fate was less severe than that of anyone who by an act of willful pride, rejects Him and all that He requires in the way of obedience to His truth (Matthew 10:15; 11:24). Such severity is the outcry of the Christ who wants that none be lost and that all be saved. This is a reminder never to infantilize the Babe of Bethlehem for, while He may whimper in the manger, this is the Voice that made all things and judges all at the end of time. And in His humility by making Himself frail and fragile in a stable, He reveals a mercy more powerful even than an exploding meteor.  

   “For their sake He remembered His covenant and showed compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love” (Psalm 106:45).

2018-12-16 - Third Sunday of Advent

2018-12-16 - Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2018

16 December 2018

Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:10-18 + Homily

15 Minutes 38 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA Version


(from the parish bulletin)

   There could be no easier subject for comment than happiness. The best classical pagan philosophers, even if they did not believe a Creator intended that humans should share in his “delight” at what he had made, taught that we were meant to be happy. Some nineteenth-century “Utilitarians” like Jeremy Bentham, thought that this happiness meant a sense of pleasure without pain. 

   As usual, the ancients like Aristotle were more sophisticated than many intellectually clumsy moderns and made a connection between pleasure and virtue. They called this “eudaimonia.” That is to say, you cannot honestly feel good unless you do what is good, and you cannot do what is good unless you yourself are good. But as “only God is good,” real happiness demands that humans give God permission to impart His goodness to our souls. It is possible to fake happiness, and that is why there is so much unhappiness in our culture, which disdains virtue. One can create an illusion of happiness, but it is a kind of moral stage set, and its falseness is revealed in the frightening explosion in drug use, and the seventy per cent increase in suicides among young people in the past decade.

   Real happiness is not the result of painlessness, but comes from dealing with pain the right way. This is why the Scriptures curiously remark almost nonchalantly: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting” (Ecclesiastes 7:2a). Jesus promises a joy that “might be full” (John 15:11), and at the same time He was a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53: 3). On Gaudete Sunday, which means “Rejoice,” the Church sneaks a peak into the joy of Heaven. 

   Here is the confidence that man’s destiny, willed by God and which can only be thwarted by the selfish will of corrupted humans, is participation in endless happiness. The word for this is more than happiness based on happenstance, but joy rooted in eternal harmony, effectively only with God. The ancient Greeks stretched for a truth that they could not fully express: real happiness, which is joy, is the state of holiness.

   This is why Saint Paul says that Christians must rejoice “always” (Philippians 4:4a). Always – and not just after a Happy Hour at McGinty’s tavern, or holding a winning ticket at the Kentucky Derby--because the creature’s source and object of all joy is the Creator.

   Chesterton asked rhetorically in his Ballad of the White Horse: “Do you have joy without a cause?” His point: there is no joy without a cause. That would be like having health by chance. Joy is joyful precisely because it has a cause that never fails. Approaching Christmas, the Church sings in astonishment that the Word was made flesh, and when He left this world, He promised that He would never leave us comfortless.

2018-12-09 - Second Sunday of Advent

2018-12-09 - Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

9 December 2018

Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:1-6 + Homily

15 Minutes 28 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA version


(from the parish bulletin)

   All creation emanated from the voice of God uttering: “Let there be light.” There was nothing and no one yet to hear it, only God himself. As animate creatures came into being, they were able to make sounds, and some of them are beautiful, but only human beings have the gift of being able to consciously praise God by a right use of intellect and will. One of the Advent mysteries is “Judgment” and, in addition to our Creator’s assessment of us, it includes the use of speech as a correct expression of human dignity. To “take the Lord’s name in vain” does not diminish God, who is eternal, but it does corrupt our dignity in relation to him as his sons and daughters. Poor Job’s wife knew this when she told him, albeit ill-advisedly, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

   If we use profane language, our Creator does not wash our mouths with soap, but he becomes less accessible to us. “Profane” actually means “outside the temple.” Our culture is degraded by an increasing use of vulgar speech. There are plenty of artful ways to insult, but when script writers and stand-up comedians resort to coarseness, they reveal their lack of verbal skill, not to mention their lack of self-respect. It is worse for a woman to use vulgar language than for a man. If this is a double standard, it is so in a good sense, for by nature the female is meant to civilize the male. Invoking Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Aristotle before him, “The corruption of the best is the worst.”

   Cole Porter remarked on this degradation even back in 1934 in a somewhat insouciant way: “Good authors, too, who once knew better words, / Now only use four-letter words. / Writing prose, / Anything goes.”

   One way to discipline the use of speech is to make a quiet act of reparation when someone curses. Simply utter to yourself the holy name of Jesus. Save for the angels, we are the only creatures who can do that.

   While Advent hymns are often blocked out by Christmas music sung too early, they are among the Church’s most beautiful sounds, giving voice to the anticipation of Christ’s birth and the prospect of his Second Coming. Among them is one translated by Edward Caswall, an Oxford classics scholar who converted to Catholicism in 1847 and joined John Henry Newman’s Oratory in Birmingham three years later. There is nothing in his vocabulary that needs to be bleeped or asterisked, although such speech may confuse and even scandalize those in our present day who grunt like animals instead of singing like humans, who are—after all—only a little lower than the angels:

Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding;
"Christ is nigh," it seems to say;
"Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day!"

2018-12-02 - First Sunday of Advent

2018-12-02 - First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

2 December 2018

First Sunday of Advent

Luke 21:25-28. 34-36 + Homily

17 Minutes 37 Seconds

Link to today's Readings - USA version


(from the parish bulletin)

   A bishop condescendingly asked John Henry Newman, “Who are the laity?” To which the great saint, and, one hopes, future Doctor of the Church, replied that the Church would look foolish without them. 

   The same might be said of those who are consecrated in the Religious life. The difference is that most of the Church consists in laypeople, while monks, nuns, and other consecrated Sisters and Brothers are a small fraction of the People of God, but are needed to remind all the baptized that our true home is in heaven. The distinctive habits that they wear are reminders of their role.

   Since the Second Vatican Council, many ill-advised Religious have abandoned conventual life and even those Religious habits. It was an abuse of the Council’s modest prescriptions for updating the consecrated life, and in fact, it often fostered dissent from the Faith itself. Since 1965 the number of women Religious in the United States has dropped from 181,421 to fewer than 47,000 today. Eighty percent are older than 70, so the death rattle is ominous in at least 300 of the 420 Religious institutes. Yet, many refuse to admit their mistakes, rather like the definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

   But there is also a dramatic upsurge in Orders that live the traditional counsels, teaching, caring for the poor and sick, and not wasting their time in “workshops” on climate change and nuclear weapons.

   Some of these new communities are growing dramatically: the Dominican Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, and our own New York-based Sisters of Life (who share our parish’s hospitality), among others. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, whose mother house is in Michigan, have grown in just twenty years to more than 140 Sisters with an average age of 32. They teach in preschool through college throughout the United States and this coming year will open another large convent in Texas for 115 sisters.

   A choir of these Sisters in their traditional habits was invited to sing at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington. This is a big change from just a few years ago when an earlier Administration threatened to sue the venerable Little Sisters of the Poor for maintaining Catholic moral principles.

   The Advent season bids us to think more deeply about Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. The Religious are consecrated to remind the faithful about these Four Last Things. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16.).

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