Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-01-26 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-01-26 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 26, 2020

26 January 2020

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 4:12-23 + Homily

19 Minutes 56 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Precisely one year ago in the Italian town of Cremona, there was an imposed silence by order of the local government for eight hours a day, six days of the week for five straight weeks. The purpose was to allow the pristine recording by highly technical equipment of sounds played on the 1700 Antonio Stradivari “Stauffer” cello, the 1727 Antonio Stradivari “Vesuvius” violin, a 1615 “Stauffer” viola by Girolamo Amati, and the 1734 “Prince Doria” violin by Guarneri del Gesù. Cremona’s most famous luthier, of course, was Stradivari, and no one knows how many centuries from now such instruments as the Stradivarius violins can survive.

   It is harder to make silence than noise. Because of modern cacophony, especially in what passes for music in the form of amplified “rock” sounds, young people are growing increasingly deaf. In urban areas, silence is so uncommon that one becomes suspicious of silence, rather like the dog that did not bark in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Silver Blaze” detective story. Sherlock Holmes said that it was Dr. Watson’s “great gift for silence” that made him so useful.

   Satan and his evil spirits are noisy. Jesus told an evil spirit to be silent (Mark 1:25). The Greek Φιμώθητι (Phimōthēti) simply means “Shut up!” Our Lord always was precise. So should we be, in order to hear God. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

   The surrealist poet Dame Edith Sitwell said, “My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.” She might have benefitted arts and letters had she been silent more often. But, after all, she eventually made her Profession of Faith at the Farm Street Church in London with Evelyn Waugh as her sponsor. Neither was famous for reticence, but they did profit from moments of quietude. Those who do not think deeply will not understand how painful it is to those who have powers of concentration, to be interrupted by frivolous chatter.

   Saint Anthony helped to change the world by isolating himself in a desert. This is why retreats in one form or another are crucial, for a retreat is actually a frontal attack on the noisy Anti-Christ. The pope himself recently said that folks should put down their iPhones and listen to silence, which has a sound of its own. When Barnabas and Paul spoke at the Council in Jerusalem, “All the people kept silent . . .” (Acts 15:12). We can be thankful that they did not have cell phones.

   God will not have to shout at us if we do not “harden our hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). Instead, as with Elijah, “. . . the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

2020-01-19 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-01-19 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 19, 2020

19 January 2020

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 1:29-34 + Homily

14 Minutes 13 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  I knew an elderly Scotswoman who read the Bible each night by the light of a candle. It had become a kind of ritual, for everyone needs a rite, including those reared in the stark Calvinist kind of worship of her homeland Kirk. While she did all of her other reading by electric light, the lamp was turned off and the candle lit for the Bible. It was by that burning taper that she could read, as all of us can, the wonderful and mysterious words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

   That contrast of light and dark is powerfully depicted in the Isenheim Altarpiece now in Colmar, France. It was produced between 1512 and 1516 by the sculptor Nikolaus of Haguenau and painter Matthias Grünewald for a hospital that treated people suffering from skin diseases, and such affliction is depicted on the flesh of the Crucified Christ in what has been called “The most beautiful painting of ugliness in the history of art.” The darkness of the Passion is darker for being next to the incandescent light of the Risen Christ. At the foot of the Cross, in deliberate contempt for chronology, is John the Baptist, still alive and attended by a lamb, for John had called his cousin “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The Lamb, a symbol of Christ sacrificed on the cross, is also the Light that pre-existed all created light as we know it. “And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23).

   That illuminating “glory of God” briefly broke through created light as we know it in the Transfiguration. If it is to be understood to some small degree, that will be by acknowledging the “pre-existence” of Christ: “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:2-3).

   Even in speech, the mystery of Christ’s pre-existence declares itself: “. . . before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). For any human confined to chronology, saying that would be using bad grammar. One might say “I was” (Simple Past), “I was existing” (Past Continuous), “I had existed” (Past Perfect), or “I had been existing” (Past Perfect Continuous), but only Christ can defy grammar by saying that before Abraham was, “I am.”

   John—standing at the Jordan river, poorly dressed and even more poorly fed—employed the only grammar available to him, to declare of his younger cousin: “This is he, of whom I said: After me there comes a man who is preferred before me, because he was before me” (John 1:30).


2020-01-12 - Baptism of the Lord

2020-01-12 - Baptism of the Lord

January 12, 2020

12 January 2020

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Matthew 3:13-17 + Homily

16 Minutes 0 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Prophets proclaim the truth, and they predict the future only in a derivative sense of cautioning about the consequences of denying the truth. Thus, the Church distinguishes between holy prophesying and sinful fortune-telling. There is a “psychic” near our rectory, who will tell your future for $10, but you have to ring the bell first, and I should think that if she had the powers she claims, she would not require a doorbell.

   The less the Wisdom of God is heeded, the more people rely on fallible human calculations. Inevitably, the list of mistaken predictions keeps growing. We may remember being told in the 1960s that within twenty years, overpopulation would cause universal starvation. Instead, we now have crises of empty cradles and obesity: birth dearth and increased girth. As the new year begins, we can reflect on a prediction of the president of Exxon U.S.A. in 1989 that by 2020 our national oil reserves would be practically nil, while the solid fact is that those reserves are far higher than even back then.

   In 1990, The Washington Post was confident that carbon dioxide emissions would have increased our planet’s average temperature about three degrees (and six degrees in the United States) by 2020. The increase has been only about one degree. If we trusted some experts, by now one billion people would be starving in the Third World due to climate toxicity, but instead the World Bank tells us that there has been a significant alleviation of dire poverty, with the assistance of developed countries and access to investment capital and prudent production. 

   There still are glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro, despite a warning of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2003 that by now they would have melted. In 1997, the Reuters newswire announced that by 2020 some eight million people would have died because of global warming catastrophes, while such deaths actually have reached historic lows. Taking up that theme, a New York congresswoman and former bartender predicts that the world could end in twelve years.

   While to err is human and to forgive is divine, as the Catholic sensibility of Alexander Pope opined, forgiveness requires apologizing. Wrong predictions in recent decades are conspicuous for their authors’ lack of contrition. It is as if they had absorbed the bromide uttered at the end of the sentimental film “Love Story” in 1970: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” If that were so, there would be no Act of Contrition in the Holy Mass, which is the world’s most sublime manifestation of love. But we are talking here about simple humility in anticipating the future. 

   Without accountability to God for the right use of reason, ideology mimics theology, disagreement is treated as heresy, neurosis fabricates its own apocalypse, and mistakes claim infallibility, with no need to say “I was wrong.” 

2020-01-05 - Epiphany

2020-01-05 - Epiphany

January 5, 2020

5 January 2020

The Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2:1-12 + Homily

17 Minutes 25 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Who the “Wise Men” were is a recurring question for inventive debate, but the point is that these sophisticated scholars were from “a foreign country.”

   Here in Manhattan, tourists can be annoying when they stop suddenly to look at a novel sight. But they also do us the favor of noticing what we take for granted. Those Magi from a foreign land pointed out that the locals had missed the greatest event in history. They also wisely distrusted King Herod (his heir Archelaus was even worse, as Saint Joseph knew), and so they ignored him. When Herod found out that a child had come into the world who threatened his complacency, he set out to destroy him, killing many innocents in the attempt.

   Christians must always be tourists in this earthly realm, pointing out the wonders that others take for granted. That can be threatening to many. True Christians disturb the settled ways of a culture. People who succumb to the insanity of sin will accuse Christians of madness. That is how we get martyrs, as happened a couple of weeks ago in Nigeria when Muslims killed eleven Christians. Such hostility was an expression of the killers’ conviction that Jesus Christ brought madness into the world.

   In  a 1959 ”Twilight Zone” television episode called “Eye of the Beholder,” some exceedingly ugly people unsuccessfully perform plastic surgery on a beautiful woman, thinking that she is the one who is ugly. In our decaying culture, there are those who think that history’s Perfect Man was ugly and that those who are like him should be crucified one way or another, usually by ridicule and censorship. The media and demagogic politicians do this as a habit.

   In recent days, a woman in Britain gave birth, although she was bearded after hormonal treatments that made her appear as the man she had “transitioned” to be twelve years before. Her partner is “non-binary”—which means neither male nor female, and the “sperm donor” was a man who thinks he is a woman, while the obstetrician, according to vague reports, was either a man who claims to be a woman or a woman who claims to be a man.

   Thus, our rattled culture poses a dilemma: either these people are mentally ill, or Christians are. And this is not confined to the esoteric. An Ivy League institution has just mailed forms to alumni, asking them to choose the descriptive pronoun they prefer. This gives new meaning to “institution.” And this is why sane voices increasingly are banned from speaking in such places, because the function of prophets is to point out that inmates are running the asylum.

   Observant souls never take for granted the sanity Christ brought into the world. Salvation means sanity. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).


2020-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

2020-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2020

1 January 2020

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Luke 2:16-21 + Homily

9 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

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