Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-04-14 - Palm Sunday

2019-04-14 - Palm Sunday

April 14, 2019

14 April 2019

Palm Sunday


5 Minutes 36 Seconds

Link to the Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   The more science shows of the universe, the more its beauty almost takes one’s breath away. There is nothing about it that could be called vulgar or in bad taste, for those are categories applicable only to what humans on our little planet do with things. It is possible to mock the harmony of the spheres with degrading human music, just as the stateliness of the galaxies can be burlesqued by undignified human behavior. 

   Logically then, when the Master of the Universe became flesh, He did nothing vulgar or tactless according to human lights. Even when He fled the mob in Nazareth, or hid from the crowd that had been dazzled by one of His miracles, His pace was elegant and His demeanor beyond reproach.

   Strange then that when He entered Jerusalem to die, He arranged a sort of shabby parade, and encouraged the children to cheer Him as a king even after He had spurned a crown from a crowd. He must have seemed vulgar and tactless. Those who thought He was arrogant accused Him of blasphemy, and those who thought Him silly crowned Him with clownish thorns.

   When the parish priest John Vianney heard that people were calling him a saint, he pretended to be the village idiot. Perhaps on Palm Sunday, Christ was mocking those who thought He was the king they wanted. But His coronation would be on a cross in a mystical ritual that sophisticates would consider foolish (1 Corinthians 1:23). As for pomposity, His entrance procession was clean of pretentiousness because a true king must ride on an ass to show his humility as a servant of his subjects (Zechariah 9:9).

   Jesus orchestrated this spectacle just as He, as Divine Wisdom, orchestrated the elegant harmony of the celestial spheres. Only the vulgar and the pompous, then and now, have had an itch to accuse Him of vulgarity and pomposity. Not only on that first Palm Sunday, but in every year of human history, He makes a spectacle of Himself to make us speculate: Who is this man that He has authority to forgive sins? (Luke 5:21) And: Who is this man that He speaks with authority and not as one of the scribes? (Matthew 7:29)

   Our Lord seems to cheapen Himself by arranging a tawdry procession through the narrow streets of the Holy City, but he does it to show how precious He is. Riding on an ass through fetid alleys, He declares that the power of creating all the universe is in those hands soon to be nailed to the wood of a cross. That degradation is His exaltation. It is a glory farther beyond measure than the size of the universe He has created. And the children cheering him in dissonant and shrill voices, are proof that His Kingdom “is not of this world” (John 18:36). 

2019-04-07 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

2019-04-07 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

April 7, 2019

7 April 2019

Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 8:1-11 + Homily

16 Minutes 48 Seconds

Link to the Readings


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   As a schoolboy, George Washington copied out in elegant script the 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. Later on, our first President tried to figure out how a head of state who was not a monarch should conduct himself with his fellow citizens. His solution was to be a gentleman, obedient to those rules of civility that he had learned as a boy.

   Etiquette may vary through the generations, but it bespeaks due respect. That has been largely lost in our time. Opinion polls admit that modern manners have become coarse. People dress with little regard for others and use foul language without shame. Popular comedians elicit roars of laughter from audiences not embarrassed by sluttish words that would have been unspeakable a generation ago.

   This has nothing to do with snobbishness, and it has everything to do with moral perception of human dignity. Anyone who dresses in casual clothes for significant events because “it makes me more comfortable,” or who speaks loudly or interrupts others, is advertising his barbarity. Even Viking marauders paid attention to their ceremonial vesture and lyrical literature. A lesson can be learned from the Prodigal Son, who squandered his father’s inheritance and ended up living like the swine.

   Our Lord told another parable about guests being kicked out of a wedding because they were improperly arrayed. Poor as He was in material terms, the Son required dignity in the House of the Father. He had little money, but if He had anything expensive, it was His seamless garment. Poor people often have the best manners, and they are not in a position to “dress down” like richer people who have enough money to condescend to others. 

   The Christian has a baptismal dignity that should inform all of his manners and conversation. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Civility is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “politeness,” but that makes sense only as regard for the dignity of others. People using their iPhones and “texting” in restaurants, oblivious to those seated next to them, are disdainful of God’s creatures and the art of conversation. And those who tolerate cursing, or who lapse into vulgarisms themselves, have little approval from Saint Paul: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

   Consideration for the sensibility of others is supercilious only to those who have lapsed into a boorishness that simmers under the surface of every civilization. And by the way, George Washington’s “110 Rules of Civility” were composed in 1595 by French Jesuits to instruct their students. Many of them went on to civilize much of the world.

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