Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-12-29 - Holy Family

2019-12-29 - Holy Family

December 29, 2019

29 December 2019

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 + Homily

16 Minutes 45 Seconds 

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122919.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

 

From the parish bulletin:

  An architect knows where all the doors in a house will lead because he designed it. That is why man-made religions can seem plausible, being the product of human imagination. That is also why the fact that Christ is a divine reality, or “Person,” while having two natures, challenges human understanding, because it is not a human invention. In these days of Christmas, a good way to avoid reducing the Incarnation’s mysterious meaning to simple expressions of goodwill and Dickensian jollity, is to read the Athanasian Creed, focusing on the lines: “Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed unto God. He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by unity of person.” 

   A sure way to get the Incarnation wrong is to try to use mere human imagery to explain it. One recent attempt, with the best of intentions, was to make an analogy between the two natures of Christ and the mixed races of “mestizos” who are part European and part American Indian. This echoes the mistake of the monk Eutyches (d. 454), who imagined the divinity and humanity of Christ as fused into a sort of homogenized third reality, half God and half Man. Not to make light of such a serious mistake, but it reminds one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Iolanthe,” named for a woodland fairy who bears a son, Strephon, fathered by a mortal man. Strephon’s problem is that he is half sprite and halfhuman, so when he tries to fly through a keyhole, his human legs get stuck. 

   There were even bishops who did not want to think more deeply than Eutyches, although he had been condemned as a heretic in 448, and they rehabilitated him at a bogus “Robber” council of Ephesus in Turkey. Pope Leo (known to history as “the Great”) appealed from Rome to the venerable lady Pulcheria, empress in the Byzantine half of the Roman Empire, who at the time was regent during the minority of her brother Theodosius II, asking her to summon another council. During the third session of that assembly in Chalcedon, a letter from the Pope was read, defining the true mystery of the Son of God, and the bishops cried out in chorus: “This is the faith of the Fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. We all believe, the orthodox believe thus. Those who do not believe thus are excommunicated. Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo.” 

   At Christmas we remember the words Peter heard from the Master, who was once cradled in Bethlehem: “. . . flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 16:17).

 

2019-12-24 - Christmas

2019-12-24 - Christmas

December 24, 2019

24 December 2019

The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas):

Mass During the Night

Luke 2:1-14 + Homily

16 Minutes 2 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122519-the-nativity-of-the-lord-night.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-22 - Advent IV

2019-12-22 - Advent IV

December 22, 2019

22 December 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:18-24 + Homily

14 Minutes 59 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122219.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  I have long been of the opinion that preachers should avoid allusions to the painting “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt. This is not because it is inferior in any way. It is a tour de force of an artist’s craft and a prime example of the Pre-Raphaelite school that he began around 1848 with John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, trying to revive the mystical aura they thought had become somewhat lost in the cold rationalism of the Renaissance. They were  a lively and amusing coterie. Father Neville of the Oratory was offended when Millais smoked a pipe in the presence of John Henry Newman as he painted his great portrait of the saint. But His Eminence did not mind at all and was eminently amused.

   My hesitation about Hunt’s painting of Christ knocking on a door is that it has become a cliché. It has been copied countless times, and like Leonardo’s Last Supper, it is seen so much that it is robbed of its force and even suffers the degradation of reproduction on coffee mugs and tea towels. Hunt’s painting has further been badly caricatured, as in the modern version by Warner Sallman, in a descent from cliché to kitsch. But clichés become clichés because of their innate truth, even if they are responsible for dreary platitudes from the pulpit.

   Hence, the Advent days make reference to Hunt’s painting unavoidable, for its symbolism puts on the painter’s canvas, with color and linseed oil, what the scribe’s ink wrote on parchment: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

   At the risk of being tiresome, it needs to be pointed out that there is no exterior handle on the door, for it is the door of the human soul, which has to be opened from the inside. The door is covered with the thistles of sin. This is the moment when free will decides to open or shut. Free imagination assumes that the light Christ carries is seeping through cracks in the door’s rough wood, just as prophetic voices in Advent hint at a great Light about to shine  on the world.

   Over three centuries before the Incarnation, the Cynic philosopher Diogenes supposedly carried a  lamp through the streets, “looking for an honest man.” Since Christ is Wisdom itself, the lamp he carries in portraiture is not a searchlight. It is a reflection of the light of divinity that surrounds his divine head, for he is “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).

   On Christmas, the Church chants the words first uttered at Nicaea in Turkey by bishops who in many instances had been battered by darkened intellects: “Light from Light.” That is not a cliché.

2019-12-15 - Advent III

2019-12-15 - Advent III

December 15, 2019

15 December 2019

The Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Matthew 11:2-11 + Homily

16 Minutes 27 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121519.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

 Gaudete!—Rejoice!—is the name for the Third Sunday of Advent. The rubrics say the Advent penances and discipline are somewhat mitigated on this day. Gaudete Sunday is a respite, rather like one of those “film trailers” that give a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come. Even so, the sonorous hymns and rose colors of Gaudete Sunday are awkward vaudeville rather than true drama, if there is no penance to lighten and no discipline to lessen. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).

   Saint Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of ink describing joy, just as Bach set “the joy of man’s desiring” to music. Joy is a fact that only the true God can give, and so it is more than a transient feeling of happiness. At the heart of human nature is the longing for joy, and this is the case even with miscreants who are deluded in thinking that sensuality, sloth, and even suicide will bestow a fugitive kind of happiness.

   Advent is the guide to true joy, and it has become a Lost Season, just as Confession has become a Lost Sacrament, because our culture is impatient for joy and tries to be satisfied with tinsel happiness. Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch that stole Christmas” has a twin in the Grinch that stole Advent. This means that the beautiful hymnody and literature of Advent is swept away. Even organizations that claim to be Christian have Christmas parties in Advent. Excuses for “rushing” Christmas would be amusing were they not so pathetic. That sober modern prophet, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the twentieth century.” That disease has become epidemic in our new century.

   Patience is one of the seven fruits of the Holy Spirit. It should strengthen the soul that is tempted to celebrate Christmas before Christmas. The excuse for doing that—“But everybody expects it”—merely means that the “Long expected Jesus” is not really expected. In contrast, persecuted Christians in diverse lands keep a more profound Advent, learning and living “all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). This has significant results. While persecution has driven Christianity in Iraq almost to extinction, the Chaldean Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa, has said that his people “lost everything except our faith in Jesus Christ” and are stronger for it. Moreover, he said, “many thousands of Muslims discovered the Person of Jesus Christ” after seeing the patient endurance of Christians.

   In Advent, has your example brought anyone closer to the deep joy of Christ? "Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).

2019-12-09 - Immaculate Conception

2019-12-09 - Immaculate Conception

December 9, 2019

9 December 2019

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Luke 1:26-38 + Homily

17 Minutes 38 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120919.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-08 - Advent II

2019-12-08 - Advent II

December 8, 2019

8 December 2019

The Second Sunday of Advent

Matthew 3:1-12 + Homily

20 Minutes 22 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Of the “Four Last Things,” the Second Sunday of Advent treats Judgment. While it is superficially pious to ask, “Who am I to judge?” this has nothing to do with our Lord’s admonition: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Christians are obliged to judge (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Judgment is the ability to make a right discernment, and the chronic inability to do that is the definition of insanity. God is the ultimate judge, and all human judgment must conform to his justice. Otherwise, judgment is defective, based on “outward appearance” (John 7:24).

   The spiritual director of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Abbé Henri Huvelin, told a woman who accused herself of pride for thinking that she was one of the greatest beauties in Paris: “Madame, that is not a sin. It is merely a mistaken judgment.”

   In the second century, Justin Martyr told the Roman consul Quintus Junius Rusticus: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.”

   Great leaders like King Louis IX were just judges. As he was dying on the Eighth Crusade, he left a testament to his son and heir: "In order to do justice and right to thy subjects, be upright and firm, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, but always to what is just; and do thou maintain the cause of the poor until such a time as the truth is made clear.”

   The virtue of justice is twin to prudence. Naiveté is eviscerated prudence. So for example, the recent capitulation of some Vatican diplomats to the Chinese government was intended to secure justice for Chinese Catholics, but it only issued in their further oppression. Now, the Communists have ordered that if any church is not to be destroyed, it must replace images of Jesus with that of Xi Jinping. The lack of right discernment leads to untold suffering.

   The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is transferred this Advent to Monday. A depiction of Our Lady as the New Eve portrays her trampling on the head of Satan, shown as a serpent. This fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. It is the ultimate act of justice, which Mary, along with all Christians, can do by the power of the Just Judge, “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), who is the ultimate crusher of the Prince of Lies.

   By no means a Catholic mystic, some inspiration moved Julia Ward Howe to awaken before dawn in the Willard Hotel in 1861 and write with a stub of pencil, the “Battle Hymn” which includes the often-neglected lines: “Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, / Since God is marching on.”

2019-12-01 - Advent I

2019-12-01 - Advent I

December 1, 2019

1 December 2019

First Sunday of Advent

Matthew 24:37-44 + Homily

18 Minutes 11 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120119.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Given the many theatres that are or have been within walking distance of our church on 34th Street, it is not possible to count the number of times stage curtains have come down on a final act. One block away from us is the theatre built by Oscar Hammerstein, to compete with the old Metropolitan Opera House up on Broadway at 39th. Here on 34th Street, in what is now called the Manhattan Center, the Vitaphone sound system was used in 1926 to record the first soundtrack for a moving picture,Don Juan. Before the old Met’s gold damask curtain came down for the last time at 39th and Broadway in 1966, the greatest Madama Butterfly, Licia Albanese, who once sang in my former church,  rendered her last “Un bel dì” and then kissed with her hand the floorboards of the stage as the curtain came down before a weeping audience.

   In another venue, my grandmother had a vivid recollection of the consternation at the old Hippodrome up on 43rd Street in the late 1920’s when the curtain collapsed on the child star Baby Rose Marie. That forerunner to Shirley Temple survived and lived to be 94. Albanese was still singing when she died in 2014 at the age of 105.

   So curtains fall sooner or later, and we have Advent to remind us of that. The superficiality of a life may be measured by how seriously one takes Advent’s four themes of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Advent proclaims that a curtain is falling, even if a premature Christmas celebration with bells and elves, beginning with the Macy’s parade (two blocks east of our church), fabricates a distraction from that.

   If thought is not deep, there will be no real joy when the mysteries of God are disclosed. The bane of our times, and possibly of all times, is superficiality. This was illustrated at a synod of bishops in Rome in 2015, when papers of a politically correct nature were read, one after another repeating clichés to address the world’s problems. One consultant broke through the soporific jargon. Dr. Anca Maria Cernea, a prominent Romanian physician, whose father had been imprisoned by Communists for seventeen years, said:

“The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change.” The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion. Not an ever-increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism on our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on. What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.”

In the darkening days of Advent, the curtain falls on the old man, in sure and certain hope that it will rise for those who believe that there is born in Bethlehem the Savior, who will die in order to rise. 

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