Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-06-30 - 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-06-30 - 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2019

30 June 2019

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:51-62 + Homily

14 Minutes 44 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/063019.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Among rare neurological disorders, the “pseudobulbar affect” is manifested by uncontrolled laughter or crying. It can be treated effectively in many cases with a combination of the drugs dextromethorphan and quinidine. But there is another malady for which the Food and Drug Administration has no cure, and that is the habit of affecting emotions insincerely in order to manipulate others. There is the habitual backslapper who uses laughter to avoid serious conversation, often out of insecurity. There is also the weeper whose tears flow to elicit sympathy.

   A remarkable quality usually taken for granted, is that humans can laugh and cry unlike other creatures. “Risibility,” the ability to laugh or smile, is a defining trait of humanity. The moral challenge is to identify the right causes of happiness and sadness. 

   All sane, moral behavior has the pursuit of happiness as the goal of life. Sadness is the recognition of what impedes that goal. As long as we are in a broken world, happiness will be elusive to a degree, and at best will be “felicitas,” which means real but impermanent happiness.

   Ancient Greeks, unlike their modern descendants who are largely occupied these days with fixing their economy, spent time studying human dispositions. They were good psychologists. Their gods and goddesses were essentially symbols of human characteristics. There were many deities who represented varying attempts at happiness, although some of their philosophers, like the Cynics and Stoics, did not think there was much of a chance at felicity. There were, for instance: Bacchus – drinking; Hypnos – drugs; Hermes – sports; Dionysius – partying; Aphrodite – sex; Tyche – good luck; Hygieia – health; Thalia – comedy; Momus – silliness and gossip; and Nemesis – revenge on enemies.

   Saint Paul was familiar with that ghostly pantheon and politely confronted their clients in Athens. He did not mock or insult them. But he did declare to them that he knew the one true God who is the source of all true joy and for which those idols were lame substitutes:

     Being then the children of God, we ought not to  think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:29-31)

   Most of the philosophers were unmoved because they liked hearing themselves and none other. But one of them, Dionysius, and a woman named Damaris, and “a number of others” accepted Christ. Their stories are unrecorded, but as Christ never lied, we know that they inherited a happiness higher than felicitas, and that is beatitudo—the endless joy of God’s presence.

2019-06-23 - Corpus Christi

2019-06-23 - Corpus Christi

June 23, 2019

23 June 2019

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Luke 11B-17 + Homily

15 Minutes 32 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Jacques Pantaléon was an unlikely candidate for the papacy, being neither a cardinal nor Italian, since he was the son of a French cobbler. Nonetheless he became Pope Urban IV after having acquitted himself well as Patriarch of Jerusalem. His attentions also involved him in concerns from Constantinople to Germany and Denmark.

   Two months before his death in 1264, he commissioned Saint Thomas Aquinas to write hymns for a new feast honoring the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. There used to be many hymnodic “Sequences,” but over the years they were trimmed down to Easter and Pentecost and, later, Corpus Christi. Although Aquinas had written so sublimely about the Real Presence, Urban wanted song more than prose. Thus we have Pange LinguaTantum ErgoPanis Angelicus, and O Salutaris Hostia. As they have endured nearly nine centuries so far, they are likely to outlast the musical kitsch that guitar-strumming grey heads of a dying Woodstock generation persist in thinking are the heraldic sounds of a New Age. Unlike the works of those more recent composers, whose absent Latin and poor English only serve to express a low Eucharistic theology, the classical hymnody of Aquinas can best be sung in the original and, if sung in translation, needs translators who are accomplished Latinists and masters of English. Two Anglican converts of the nineteenth century, Edward Caswall and Gerard Manley Hopkins, qualified for that.

   The ineffable mystery of the Blessed Sacrament will always be prey to minds smaller than the Doctors of the Church, as they try to reduce mystery to mere human puzzle whose pieces can be arranged according to limited human intelligence. Even in Pope Urban’s age, which by many standards of architecture and scholarship was golden, confusion about the Real Presence in the Mass was spreading. One priest, Father Peter of Prague, while en route to Rome was granted what the Church considers a miracle: blood emanating from the Host. Pope Urban was in nearby Orvieto and sent delegates to inspect the phenomenon. The Feast of Corpus Christi soon followed.

   At the last Supper, our Lord did not subject his apostles to a lecture on how he could give them his Body to eat and Blood to drink. He simply commanded, “Do this.” This is not to deny the vocation of theologians ever since to describe the Heavenly Banquet, but the best of them have known the difference between apprehending and comprehending. “Faith for all defects supplying, Where the feeble senses fail.”

   A Baptist hymn writer in the nineteenth century, Robert Lowry, would certainly have been a bit uncomfortable in the presence of the Dominican master Thomas Aquinas, but one suspects that the Angelic Doctor would have fully empathized with the confidence of Lowry’s hymn:

      The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

      A fountain ever springing;

      All things are mine since I am his—

      How can I keep from singing?

2019-06-16 -Trinity Sunday

2019-06-16 -Trinity Sunday

June 16, 2019

16 June 2019

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 16:12-15 + Homily

16 Minutes 30 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061619.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  An epitaph on the tomb of Bishop Miler Magrath of Cashel in Ireland (d. 1622) reads: “Here where I am placed I am not. I am not where I am not. Nor am I in both places, but I am in each.” His problem was that he had called himself a Catholic bishop as well as a Protestant bishop. Bishop Magrath’s ingenuity for rationalizing brings to mind his contemporary in England, Simon Aleyn, who was unable to maintain the duplicity of practicing two religions at the same time. To retain his position as vicar of an affluent parish in Berkshire, whatever might be the religion of the reigning monarch, he declared himself consecutively Protestant, Catholic, Protestant, and Catholic again, inspiring a caustic ballad: 

      

      And this is law, I will maintain

      Unto my Dying Day, Sir.

      That whatsoever King may reign,

      I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

 

   There is a political parallel to this malleability in a former Vice President who has decided to run for the actual Presidency as a Catholic independent of the strictures of Catholicism. As Vice President, he officiated at the civil “marriage” of two men in 2016, although he had voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. In 2006 he threatened that if anyone said he was not Catholic, “I’m gonna shove my rosary beads down their throat.” The Bishop of Cashel and the Vicar of Bray could not have said it more eloquently.

   Recently, this candidate reversed overnight his longstanding support of the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal subsidies for abortions. We remember the United States senator who said in 2004 that he voted for a bill before he voted against it, and the Australian senator who explained her position on a tax-cut proposal in 2018: “I said no originally, then I said yes. Then I have said no, and I've stuck to it."

   For Bismarck, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” I was fortunate to know Congressman Henry Hyde, who counted his amendment his greatest achievement, and I also knew Judge Robert Bork who was slandered by the rancorous attacks of the aforementioned vice president. Both were aware that no one can survive in public life if he naively denies that situations can require compromise and even reversals. But they also knew that when the flip-flop is a matter of life or death, accommodation takes on an ominous character.

   The Bourbon King Henry IV, baptized Catholic but reared Protestant and the champion of a Protestant army, became king of France by cutting a deal: he would declare himself Catholic. “Paris vaut bien une messe.” He decided that Paris was well worth a Mass, but the Church does not consider him worthy of sainthood. Less saintly is anyone who calculates that Washington, D.C. is worth more than a Mass.

     NOTE:

   A fuller version of this topic may be found by clicking the attached link to Crisis Magazine: https://www.crisismagazine.com/2019/the-strange-case-of-dr-biden-and-mr-hyde

2019-06-09 - Pentecost

2019-06-09 - Pentecost

June 9, 2019

9 June 2019

The Day of Pentecost

John 20:19-23 + Homily

17 Minutes 14 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060919-day.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  While experience cautions theologians against the quicksand of politics, politicians not infrequently rush in to theological matters where angels fear to tread. So it was on May 29 when our junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, announced on National Public Radio that the Church is wrong about abortion, homosexuality, and the male priesthood. This puts her at odds with all the saints and doctors of the Church, and with Jesus Christ. The latter sent his Holy Spirit on Pentecost to lead the Church into all truth, and it is hard to believe that he has reversed himself in our Republic’s recent years. Since it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18), he would be at a disadvantage were he to run for the Senate from New York. This would be a trifling matter were it not for the fact that Senator Gillibrand tells Catholics that she is a Catholic.

   On various issues, Gillibrand has boasted about her “flexibility.” This was evident when, as a Congresswoman representing a district populated by hunters, she enjoyed a 100% approval rating from the National Rifle Association, but when she became a senator, she got an “F” rating from that same NRA, which she has since theatrically described as “the worst organization in this country.” Such flexibility reminds one of Ramsay MacDonald, whom Churchill likened to the Boneless Wonder of Barnum’s circus, a spectacle that his parents judged “would be too revolting and demoralising for my youthful eyes.”

   This mendacity became more egregious in a Fox News town hall televised on June 2 when she said that “infanticide doesn’t exist.” The senator’s comments, aired by numerous media outlets across the political spectrum, ignored the “late-term” abortion bill signed by Governor Cuomo on January 22, as he sat next to Sarah Weddington, the attorney who lied before the Supreme Court during the Roe v Wade case. Gillibrand then defended the “right to make a life and death decision.” But if there is no infanticide, there is no death. This is not a mistake the Holy Spirit would have made, but it does reek of the Father of Lies. The senator’s rant was the rhetorical equivalent of a clumsy saboteur, like Claudius in Hamlet, fatally “hoist with his own petard.”

   Last Sunday in Romania, Pope Francis beatified seven bishops who were martyred after unspeakable tortures during the Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu. They died in defense of the same Faith that Senator Gillibrand has said is flawed. During the beatification ceremony, the Pope warned against “new ideologies” that threaten to uproot people from their “richest cultural and religious traditions.” He said that there are “forms of ideological colonization that devalue the person, life, marriage and the family” and the faithful must “resist these new ideologies now springing up.” Because of their obedience to the Spirit of Truth, those beatified martyrs will never be known in history as Boneless Wonders.

2019-06-02 - Seventh Sunday of Easter

2019-06-02 - Seventh Sunday of Easter

June 2, 2019

2 June 2019

Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:20-26 + Homily

17 Minutes 11 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060219-7thday.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  To have known Father Stanley Jaki for more than twenty years was a privilege and a challenge. The privilege was to count as friend and mentor this Benedictine cited by many as one of the five priests whose science has most shaped our understanding of the world. The others are Copernicus in astronomy, Mendel in genetics, Mercalli in seismology, and Lemaitre in physics. The challenge was in being corrected often by this fiery Hungarian whose zeal in debate took no prisoners. 

   In my book Cloud of Witnesses, I mentioned how Jaki cautioned me against making the Big Bang theory into a theological statement. That was similar to the polite correction Georges Lemaitre made, on a higher plane, in 1951when Pope Pius XII had implied that Lemaitre’s Big Bang proposition proved a Creator as well as Creation.

   Einstein admired Lemaitre, and you might say that he was agnostic about agnosticism, observing cryptically: “If God created the world, his primary concern was certainly not to make its understanding easy for us.” Einstein could be impatient with outright atheists: “The eternal mystery of the world is its  comprehensibility.” He could not say more without compromising the limits of his own science. Saint Augustine wrote: “We do not read in the Gospel that the Lord said, ‘I will send the Paraclete to teach you the course of the sun and the moon;’ in fact, He wanted to create Christians, not mathematicians.” Later, Cardinal Baronio, a spiritual disciple of Saint Philip Neri, epigrammed: “The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

   This applies to the enigmatic Shekhinah, or Glory of God, in the form of a cloud that accompanied the wandering Jews (Exodus 13:21) and appeared on Sinai (Exodus 24:16) and on Tabor (Matthew 17:5). Finally, it was seen at the Ascension. While this cloud could be perceived by human senses, it was beyond physical analysis. Here meteorology yields to another dimension for which there is no human definition other than acknowledgement of its existence. The Christian response moves beyond analysis to rejoicing. When Saint Paul spoke of a man who had experienced a “Third Heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2) he could say no more than that.

   I knew a woman who, Christmas caroling as a child, sang “Silent Night” outside Einstein’s house at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton. The Professor appeared on the porch with his violin and, while not singing the words, played the music.

   In a sermon of 388, Gregory of Nyssa mentioned a special Feast of the Ascension to celebrate the Phos tou kosmou, the Light of the World. At the Ascension, the angel told the people not to gaze into the heavens, but to pray. Saint Paul would say: “When the Lord comes again, the living and the dead will be gathered in the clouds” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).