Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-03-29 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

2020-03-29 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 29, 2020

29 March 2020

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

NOTE: Due to the Covid19 / Coronavirus Emergency the Archdiocese of New York has cancelled all public Masses for an indefinite period. The homily attached hereto was given on 2 April 2017, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A, using the same Readings as for today, 29 March 2020.

John 9:1-45 + Homily

19 Minutes 49 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032920.cfm (New American Bible, Revised Edition)


From the parish bulletin of Sunday, 29 March 2020:

   I have a rule never to begin a paragraph with a first-person pronoun. I do this not because it would be inappropriate to use the monarchical “We,” as in “We have a rule,” or the princely “One,” as in “One has a rule,” but because self-reference confines the argument to personal experience. That is somewhat like the danger of using exclamation points—a clear sign of rhetorical failure, like shouting when your argument is unclear.

   I have broken my own rule today because it is my birthday. The demands of publishing require that this be written several days before it appears in print. I have achieved three-quarters of a century, which is child’s play compared with Methuselah, but I can say at least that I have lived a share of two very interesting centuries. I was entertained once by a lady who had lived in three centuries, having been born in the last year of the nineteenth century, and who died in the second year of the twenty-first century. That is almost as interesting as the fact that she was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions and Empress of India.

   On the day of my birth, the Indian 20th Infantry launched the conquest of Burma, British troops crossed the Rhine, and American forces began the battle of Okinawa—the harshest conflict  in the Pacific theatre. I have no memory of that since I was in a diaper and not a uniform, but the truth is that I was born during a war. That makes me no different from any other life born into this world, since everyone is engaged in a war. Life itself, whether politically peaceful or belligerent, is an engagement “against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spirits of wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

   That moral combat takes different forms, and it was not hyperbolic for our Chief Executive to call himself a “wartime president.” A struggle against disease, whose present virulence still remains uncertain, can be as violent as any combat zone. All struggles are rooted in the war that broke out in heaven when “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon” (Revelation 12:7). The happy fact is that the dragon, which is Satan, “who leads the whole world astray,” was defeated. The sobering fact is that we have a free will to choose in whose service to enlist. 

   That account in the Book of Revelation is a mere myth only if soldiers dying on battlefields, or the sick suffering on hospital beds are figments of human imagination. But when Satan fell, he took highly intelligent powers with him, and in every generation they “wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Their strategy is intimidation, and they cannot resist the Faith that casts out fear.


2020-03-22 - Fourth Sunday of Lent

2020-03-22 - Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 22, 2020

22 March 2020

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

NOTE: Due to the Covid19 / Coronavirus Emergency the Archdiocese of New York has cancelled all public Masses for an indefinite period. The homily attached hereto was given on 26 March 2017, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A, using the same Readings as for today, 22 March 2020.

John 9:1-41 + Homily

20 Minutes 38 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

 From the parish bulletin of Sunday, 22 March 2020:

  Geniuses often are thought to be absent-minded. Archimedes was so preoccupied with a mathematical diagram he was constructing during the invasion of Syracuse in Sicily in 212 BC, that he told a Roman soldier about to slay him: “Let me finish my numbers.” He was not professorially absent-minded, but present-minded. His obligation to truth took precedence over life itself.

    In our exceptional times, the President has declared a national emergency. This is not unprecedented, and I have an oral tradition of my own family witnessing to the influenza epidemic of 1918, when my grandparents’ venerable parish rector survived the infection while ministering to the ill, but whose two daughters died. The causalities were much higher than now, with a much smaller global population.

    We pray for our leaders, and the scientists enlisted to mitigate the spread of infection. We also deplore those who would exploit this crisis for political gain. Our Lord had the greatest contempt for demagogues. It is thankworthy that months ago, our government prudently imposed barriers on immigration from China, in spite of criticism from politicians who faulted that policy for what they called “xenophobia.”

    In any generation, crises provoke a reaction to the fact of human mortality. In their anxiety, those unwilling to acknowledge that tend to decry catastrophes as if they were intrusions into the obvious circumstance that life is a fragile gift. So they become paranoid about disease, demographics, climate change and other metaphors for the simple reality of impermanence.

    Death is nothing new. Until now, everyone has done it. Our Lord would speak of it with a strange mixture of gravity and nonchalance. It is prelude to a permanent realm of which every anatomical breath is an intimation by virtue of its impermanence. Anxiety ignores the promise that accompanies the warning: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

    Saint Charles Borromeo led a procession in prayer to mitigate the plague in Milan in 1576, caring for upwards of seventy thousand dying and starving people. Death meant nothing to him, save an opening to Paradise. For all his mystical intuitions, he also enjoyed playing billiards, and when asked what he would do if he had only fifteen minutes more to live, he responded, “Keep playing billiards.”

    One of the Church’s youngest saints, Dominic Savio, told Saint John Bosco that if the Holy Angel blew his trumpet for the end of all things while he was on the playground, he would just keep on playing. That is how we should want to play each day of our lives, in a friendship with God that will not find Heaven unfamiliar. In 1857, fourteen-year-old Dominic’s last earthly words were: “Oh, what wonderful things I see!”

    A saint is one who can stand at the eternal gates and say, “Hello. I am home.”


2020-03-15 - Third Sunday in Lent

2020-03-15 - Third Sunday in Lent

March 15, 2020

15 March 2020

Third Sunday in Lent

NOTE: Due to the Covid19 / Coronavirus Emergency the Archdiocese of New York has cancelled all public Masses for an indefinite period. The homily attached hereto was given on 19 March 2017, the Third Sunday of Lent, Year A, using the same Readings as for today, 15 March 2020.

John 4:5-42 + Homily

23 Minutes 22 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of 15 March 2020:

On September 10, 1919, General Pershing led his returning troops up Fifth Avenue before crowds numbering two million. In front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, he dismounted from his rambunctious white horse “Captain” to greet Cardinal Mercier, who had arrived in New York by ship the night before. The General made a point of expressing his esteem for the Belgian prelate. Perhaps the name Mercier means little to many today, but over the course of several weeks, he received an unprecedented series of welcomes in the United States, excelling even the welcome tour of Lafayette in 1824-1825.

Cardinal Mercier had become a hero to the world for his defense of Belgium during its sufferings after the German invasion. It is edifying to read on the Internet the account of the celebrations in America recorded by Father Thomas C. Brennan. In it, he describes the prelate addressing Protestant leaders in English, rabbis in Hebrew, and academics in a Latin more fluent than their own, as they bestowed honorary laurels upon him.

This archbishop led a revival in studies of Thomas Aquinas, but more than that, he was an image of moral integrity, a cardinal honored more for himself than for his title. The response to the Donatist heresy established with certainty, through the articulation of such as Saint Augustine, that the personal attributes of a cleric do not affect the legitimacy of his priestly acts: the sacraments of a weak bishop can confer the same grace as those of a saint. But the moral integrity of a cleric empowers his encouragement of souls. Weak leaders and their bromide-churning bureaucracies have scant moral influence.

Cardinal Mercier had a zeal that issued from a love of doctrinal truth. In the wartime chaos of 1917, he told his priests not to tell their people to love if they could not explain the theology that justifies love. He gave a practical formula for happiness:

“Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world, in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:

O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do. Give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will. 

If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise laden with merit.”

2020-03-08 - Second Sunday of Lent

2020-03-08 - Second Sunday of Lent

March 8, 2020

8 March 2020

Second Sunday of Lent

Matthew 17:1-9 + Homily

19 Minutes 12 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Materialism, fantasy and false worship were the temptations Satan thrust at Christ, and he is tempting our nation the same way. These seductions are a formula for Socialism, which Winston Churchill in 1948 defined as “The philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”

   A poorly educated generation succumbs to adolescent idealism, bereft of history, unaware that a cult of the state has been a consistent failure, costing countless millions of lives in modern times.

   State worship was resisted by the earliest Christians, who refused to offer incense to Caesar. Socialism is simply Communism not yet in power, and its smiling face in the guise of “Democratic Socialism” quickly scowls once it has control. As the economist Ludwig von Mises showed in various ways, the essence of Socialism is coercion and manipulation. Pope John XXIII, quoting Pope Pius XI, taught in 1961: “No Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism.”

   Socialism in the guise of benevolence exploits the naïve. As a corollary, Yeats said: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Lack of conviction moved appeasers to sign the Munich Agreement, and in present times it has ceded the Church’s integrity to the Chinese government. Naïve people were scandalized by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but Stalin and Hitler were simply Socialists in different uniforms. Just as the National Socialist manifesto of 1920 tried to replace the Church with a pastiche of “Positive Christianity,” which was Christianity without Christ, so has the Chinese government ordered that images of Christ be replaced with images of Party leader Xi Jinping.

   In 1931, Pope Pius XI denounced the exaltation of the state as “Idolatry.” He insisted that “Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.” From a conviction born of suffering under National Socialism and Soviet Socialism, Pope John Paul II maintained that “the fundamental error of Socialism is anthropological . . . [because it] considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism… .”

   As the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, Catholics should note what a present candidate for his party’s presidential nomination, who calls himself a Democratic Socialist, said years ago: “I don’t believe in charities . . .government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs.” But Pope Benedict VI has said: “We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces . . .”

   The prophet Samuel warned the Israelites who wanted a king in charge of everything: “He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves” (1 Samuel 8:17). That voice is louder now. 

2020-03-01 - First Sunday in Lent

2020-03-01 - First Sunday in Lent

March 1, 2020

1 March 2020

First Sunday in Lent

Matthew 4:1-11 + Homily

18 Minutes 4 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Earnest preachers use their personalities to lead people to Jesus without obstructing him with themselves. They may honestly boast that they have been given the best information to convey, and we have it in the form of what we call the Bible—that is, the Biblia, or Books. 

   At the start of Lent, our Lord makes us privy to the forty days he spent confronting the Anti-Christ. The only reason he made this public is that he, “who knew all men” (John 2:24), conquered with a blithe insouciance the same three temptations that we mere mortals, whom he loves, confront every day.

   The temptation to turn stone to bread is the seductive power of disordered passions: trying to gratify the wants of the flesh with gossamer seductions that never satisfy for very long. Besides uncontrolled sexuality, this includes gossip, anger and abuse, such as that of drugs and drink, and creates an illusion of pleasure that God alone can give without end. The temptation to defy gravity afflicts human souls by wallowing in fantasy every day, ogling at what others have. The temptation to rule kingdoms is the seduction of the ego to measure ourselves by the prestige others accord us.

   That temptation to rule kingdoms is the most vicious temptation because it elicits and animates the original sin of pride. Not everyone has political power, but each human being is tempted to make a kingdom of his own imagining. Every generation is witness to the futility of that vanity, such as befell the King of Babylon who said in his delusion, like Lucifer: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13).

   Catholicism is practical, which is why its supernatural power may appear among what is deceptively ordinary. Even superstitions, kitsch art, and scandalous behavior by some who identify as Catholics, witness to the fact that the supernatural character of the Church does not depend on human virtue. In some respects, heretical partisans are more virtuous and sober than Catholics, but that is because they depend on themselves, with the result that their populations become monochrome and have no tolerance for exceptions.

   G.K. Chesterton said that if he were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, if he wanted impress people he would ask for something by Plato or Aristotle, and if he expected to remain stranded a long while, he would want Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. But if he wanted to get off quickly, he would want Thomas’ “Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.” The Church is the Barque of Peter and, as such, has the most practical information for those who are stranded in a fallen world and want to get off quickly into the vibrant and colorful civilization of the saints. To begin Lent, the Church provides the guide.

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