Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-02-23 - 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-02-23 - 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 23, 2020

23 February 2020

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:38-48 + Homily

17 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

I used to dread Ash Wednesday because of the endless lines of people coming for ashes. By the end of the day, priests look like coal miners.

Sociologists may condescendingly consider the phenomenon of crowds coming for ashes, when they do not enter a church at other times of the year, a habit of tribal identity. If the mystery of the Holy Trinity, or Christ dying and rising from the dead, confounds limited human intelligence, there is still a spark of the sense that biological life has an end as real as its beginning. For skeptics, the Easter proclamation “Christ is Risen” may seem like an indulgence of romance or wishful thinking, but no one drawing breath can deny that “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.”

God gives life and does not intend to take it away. He resents mortality, and when he came into the world that he had made good, he wept to see how it had gone wrong. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), and those tears were not because he was poor or hungry or insulted, or because of bad harvests or unpredictable climate or corrupt governments. He wept because someone had died. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Even if some think that is too good to be true, every day radio and television advertisements promise that you will feel better if you take their multiple vitamins or subscribe to their weight-loss programs. This is what philosophers call the “élan vital,” or the will to live. The forty days of Lent, which go faster than health regimens, offer a promise of life beyond death more audacious than any promise of improved nutrition or medical cures.

In 1970 the film “Love Story” was a real tear-jerker, breaking records for its profits at the box office. Its closing line was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It was an altruistic sentiment, but God is love and not sentiment. Divine love is so powerful that, as Dante wrote, it “moves the sun and the other stars.” That power is offered to the human soul, which is in the image of God. “Know you not that the saints shall judge this world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).

Powerful love, sanctifying grace, is available through the absolution of sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We shortchange ourselves of splendor if we do not tell God we are sorry, as “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Lent is not an unwelcome burden, for it is the gateway to glory greater than the sun and the other stars.


2020-02-16 - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-02-16 - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 16, 2020

16 February 2020

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:17-37 + Homily

17 Minutes 59 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

The names of the Franciscan friars Berard of Carbio, Otho, Peter, Accursius and Adjutus, are not as familiar as that of Francis of Assisi, who said that they had become the prototypes of what he called the Friars Minor. After his own failed mission to convert the Muslims of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade in 1219, he sent them on a similar mission to Morocco where they were tortured and killed in 1220. That was exactly eight hundred years ago. Clearly, Saint Francis did not spend his days talking to birds. Nor did he and his friars risk their lives to engage in meandering “inter-religious dialogue.”

This column is being published on the fifth anniversary of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians. All martyrs believe, as did Saint Peter when filled with the Holy Spirit: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This perplexes flaccid minds and scandalizes the morally compromised, but it is the engine of heroic virtue. Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote in 1967: “Enamored of our present epoch, blind to all its characteristic dangers, intoxicated with everything modern, there are many Catholics who no longer ask whether something is true, or whether it is good and beautiful, or whether it has intrinsic value: they ask only whether it is up-to-date, suitable to ‘modern man’ and the technological age, whether it is challenging, dynamic, audacious, progressive.”

About a century earlier, in his Grammar of Assent, Saint John Henry Newman had already explained: “Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.” Saint Paul disdained rhetoric and mere speculation “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).

By one estimation, and it is by necessity approximate, over the centuries there have been about seventy million Christian martyrs and, astonishingly, half of them have been in roughly the last century. It is also a fact that in our present culture, one in six 18- to 64-year-olds, and one in five aged 65 and over, depend on antidepressants. The example of the martyrs is better than any chemical cure for sadness, for they testify that Christ has made life so worth living, that living and dying for him makes sense. When the ransomed bodies of those five Franciscan martyrs were brought from Morocco to Portugal, a young priest in Coimbra was so moved by their mute witness that he consecrated his life to proclaiming the Gospel as far and wide as he could. We know him as Saint Anthony of Padua.


2020-02-09 - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-02-09 - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 9, 2020

9 February 2020

The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:13-16 + Homily

14 Minutes 11 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Luke the Evangelist is the patron saint of artists because he paints pictures with words. In describing the scene of old Simeon in the Temple encountering Jesus, Luke wrote that he “took him up in his arms” (Luke 2:28).

   That word picture of an old man holding a forty-day-old baby, reminds one of the 1490 painting by the master Domenico Ghirlandaio, of a grandfather and his grandson embracing. The old man is anything but beautiful, save for his smile as he gazes at the angelic boy. The grandfather’s problematic nose is “warts and all,” as the bleak Oliver Cromwell instructed his own portraitist, Samuel Cooper. For noses, it competes with that of the vaudevillian Jimmy Durante who, incidentally, was married in 1921 in our sister parish of Holy Innocents.

   That juxtaposition of old age and youth bonded by love is the “leitmotif” of the encounter in the Temple. But by what power of perception did Simeon recognize the infant Messiah? You might ask the same of the seventeen-year-old Saint Joan of Arc when she entered the Chateau of Chinon in 1429 and recognized the disguised future King Charles VII.

   Good teachers discern potential in the classroom, like Saint Albert the Great seeing in his student Thomas Aquinas, mocked as a “Dumb Ox,” a future Doctor of the Church. But to discern the Messiah in diapers requires heavenly help, since prodigy is not greater than divinity.

   God comes to us often in obscurity, through unexpected events and persons, rather than through celebrities. Famous people come and go, often through the passing of fashion. In the second century, Plutarch compared the celebrities of his Roman days with the heroes of classical Greece; but who today remembers Cleomenes, whom he matched with Camillus, or Philopoemen compared with Poplicola?

   There are natural intuitions, such as Saint Albert recognizing in the clumsy young Thomas Aquinas the future Doctor of the Church. But Simeon and his accompanying prophetess Anna, like Joan of Arc, had their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.

   Albert Schweitzer was a hero of my youth and one of the most revered figures of the day. Now he is as remote in present consciousness as Jimmy Durante. He left us an image of the Messiah that Simeon would have understood: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: ‘Follow thou me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

2020-02-02 - Presentation of the Lord

2020-02-02 - Presentation of the Lord

February 2, 2020

2 February 2020

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22-40 + Homily

16 Minutes 48 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

The Feast of the Presentation recalls the old man Simeon chanting thanks for having lived to see the Messiah. His “Nunc Dimittis”—“Let thy servant depart in peace”—is part of the Church’s evening prayers. In 542 in Constantinople, the Emperor Justinian placed it into the Eastern Liturgy.

This year the Feast falls on Super Bowl Sunday. Human nature instinctively finds entertainment more compelling than edification, but like all things ephemeral, games pass away while the songs of saints will endure until the end of time. Few today remember the Isthmian games of the Greeks, or the cheers in the Roman circus. But those games also warn thinking people of the dangers in giving sports a cultic status. When the amateur is overwhelmed by professionals who are paid mind-boggling salaries, inflating the cost of tickets, and whose lives and deaths distract from the great events of the day, a culture’s perspective becomes irrational.

Add to this the “ad verecundium fallacy” by which people accept the unqualified opinions of individuals simply because of their celebrity. This applies to sports figures and Hollywood starlets who turn entertainment into political theatre.

The aforementioned Justinian had to deal with this problem. He and his empress Theodora were not the only couple who have rooted for opposite teams; however, their situation was serious, since the teams represented political and religious factions. Theodora was a fan of the Greens, who were Monophysite heretics, and the emperor supported the Blues, who were orthodox Chalcedonians. No one who collects abstruse sports statistics should object that these theological issues are too obscure. Feelings were so intense in 532 that the “Nika Riots” (Nika being the term for “Victory,” now adapted for Nike sneakers, made mostly in third-world countries under disputed labor conditions) led to the deaths of 30,000 rioters and the destruction of much of the city.

Super Bowl half-time extravaganzas surpass in their vulgarity only the Field of the Cloth of Gold games in France in 1520 when Henry VIII, twenty-nine years old and an impressive 6’1” wrestled Francis I, twenty-three years old and over 6’5”. Thousands of tents were erected for the crowds, and for refreshments there were 3,000 sheep, 800 calves, 300 oxen, and fountains flowing with wine. Even the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I donated for entertainment dancing monkeys painted gold.

During the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.) the Greeks built a gymnasium at the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Even some Jewish priests of the Herodian temple succumbed to the sports mania. Should any pulpit orator try to beguile his congregation on the Feast of the Presentation with banter about the Super Bowl, let him be reminded: “Disdaining the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, [the priests] hastened, at the signal for the discus-throwing, to take part in the unlawful exercises on the athletic field” (2 Maccabees 4:14).

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