Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-04-26 - The Third Sunday of Easter

2020-04-26 - The Third Sunday of Easter

April 26, 2020

26 April 2020

The Third Sunday of Easter

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 30 April 2017, the Third Sunday of Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 26 April 2020.

Luke 24:13-35 + Homily

19 Minutes 06 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)


From the parish bulletin of Sunday 26 April 2020:

  Among logical fallacies, the argument from authority, “argumentum ad verecundiam,” means accepting a proposition because its source is authoritative, even though the matter is outside that source’s competence. Such a fallacy, for instance, might approve Einstein’s view on politics or religion because he was such an important physicist. However, precisely because of his inventiveness, it is not fallacious to accept as valid his assertion that the monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulate the creative mind.

   Einstein was a remote disciple of the quirkily brilliant early nineteenth-century philosopher Schopenhauer: “A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.”

   There is some consolation in that at present, when “cabin fever” is an ancillary affliction of the coronavirus. One does not have to be a physicist or philosopher to know that while “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), there is a difference between cursed loneliness and benevolent solitude. The integrity of one’s spiritual life can be measured by understanding the difference. So Pascal, who was a Christian mystic and a mathematical scientist, famously said: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a room alone.”

   The Nazis locked the Dominican nun, Blessed Julia Rodzinska, in a cement closet for a year, and witnesses remarked on the radiance of her face. The Venerable  Cardinal Nguyen van Thuan spent thirteen years in a Vietnamese prison, nine of them in isolation. I can attest to the  serenity of three men I met who never were lonely in solitude. One was Bishop Dominic Tang of Canton, who spent seven of his twenty-two years in prison in solitary confinement. Cardinal Kung Pin-Mei of Shanghai was thirty years in prison, much of that time in solitary confinement. Father Walter Ciszek died in New York after five years in isolation in Moscow’s notorious Lubyanka prison and fifteen years in the Gulag.

   These names came to mind when I read of a CNN commentator, who has shown condescension for the Church and promoted an article calling for the abolition of the Catholic priesthood. He tweeted that, after some weeks in lockdown, during which he kept his lucrative job, he “crawled in bed and cried.”

   Saints in solitude often did not have a bed to crawl into, but they were with God, and would have been embarrassed for the Governor of New York, who said of the pandemic: “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that.”

   Another governor, the fifth of the Roman province of Judaea, was told: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11). We know who said that.


2020-04-19 - Second Sunday of Easter

2020-04-19 - Second Sunday of Easter

April 19, 2020

19 April 2020

Second Sunday of Easter / Divine Mercy Sunday

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 23 April 2017, the Second Sunday of Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 19 April 2020.

John 20:19-31 + Homily

19 Minutes 03 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)


From the parish bulletin of Sunday 19 April 2020: 

  Clichés should not be ignored just because they are clichés. Facile repetition of what is true does not make it false. Of course, it can be annoying to hear a phrase repeated often without giving it much thought. Some expressions are not false simply because they lack originality. There are many invented lies, but there is no truth that has not always been true.

   Only a dull mind would be annoyed by the truism that “Life is full of surprises.” Our first surprise happened when we were born and realized that there is a world outside the womb. The most stunning surprise in history, literally earth-shaking, was the Resurrection of Christ. No one expected it, and those few who recalled Christ’s prediction, denied it: “Now, on the next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” ’ ” (Matthew 27:62 ff). Not to risk the chance of a hoax, they arranged for the tomb to be guarded.

   The closest disciples did not understand that Jesus really meant what he said, beyond metaphor. Even in the afterglow of the Transfiguration, three of the apostles seem to have dismissed his prediction of death and resurrection as a pious cliché. There was even a subtle humor in the way the Lord surprised them: the way the Magdalen at first thought the distant figure was a gardener, and the way young John dropped for a moment his self-effacing humility by mentioning that he outran Peter to the tomb, and Jesus’ conversation with the two men on the Emmaus road almost like an elegant tease at first, and the food he ate in the Upper Room to prove he was not a ghost, and his commanding serenity when he showed Thomas the wounds.

  The element of surprise affirms the integrity of an event. The Risen Lord said to Cleopas and his companion: "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). That is the one instance when he called anyone a fool. At first it would seem to contradict his command not to insult people by calling them “raqa” which means empty-headed. But here, in the glory of the Resurrection, there is no malice attached to what he says. There is only what some have called a gracious mirth.

   If life is so full of surprises that we are no longer surprised by them, the solution is to recall that for forty days after the Lord rose from the dead, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

2020-04-12 - Easter Day

2020-04-12 - Easter Day

April 12, 2020

12 April 2020

Easter Day

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 16 April 2017, Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 12 April 2020.

John 20:1-9 + Brief Homily

15 Minutes 59 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)

 From the parish bulletin of Sunday 12 April 2020:

  Normally each Easter, the Resurrection Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom replaces our regular column, with his paraphrase of Saint Paul’s “Death, where is thy sting? Grave where is thy victory?” (Corinthians 15:55). But these are not normal times. Their abnormality includes my own difficulty in not preaching the Three Hours on Good Friday for the first time in fifty years. But this sudden breakdown of the life we were accustomed to living has a power of its own, like the tension of Holy Saturday between Friday and Sunday. 

   This jolt is a reminder that the Resurrection of Christ was the most unusual thing that ever happened. Perhaps it takes a cancellation of Easter-egg hunts and an absence of chocolate bunnies, to renew the shock of an end to sorrow. The Magdalene recognized Jesus only after she wept: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” It must have been very quiet in the garden by the empty tomb, when the Voice called to her by name. The whole world has now become silent enough for us to hear that Voice. And when the Master told the Magdalene not to touch him, he was not setting an example for “social distancing.” He was telling her not to cling to him, because he had more to do over forty days, before he entered eternity, making himself available everywhere, cancelling all emptiness. 

   In 590, Rome was reeling from what evidently was Bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis, which pandemic over several decades had killed an estimated one hundred million people in a population much smaller than now. Pope Pelagius II was one of its victims. His successor, Pope Gregory I, had been Pelaguis’ ambassador or “apocrisiarius” to Constantinople where he learned the custom of their penitential processions. On April 25, he organized a procession of seven groups representing the different regions of Rome, and prayed the prototype of our prayer, the “Regina Coeli”: “Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia: For he whom thou hast deserved to bear, alleluia, Hath risen, as he promised, alleluia.” He said he heard it from angels. Then he had a vision of Saint Michael the Archangel sheathing his sword, and the pestilence ended. 

   Divine Providence arranged long ago that our church’s patron should be Saint Michael the Archangel. Our parish has the honor of pastoral responsibility for the emergency hospital with a capacity for over three thousand patients at the Javits Center. In every country people are responding in different ways to the specter of desolation that has haunted each generation in various ways. 

   On Palm Sunday, Queen Elizabeth spoke words as maternal as they were monarchical: “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” Those with memories long enough will recognize that the Queen was evoking the World War II song: “We’ll meet again. Don't know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.” Her words were broadcast from the same castle where, nearly eighty years before, as a girl herself, she sent her first radio message to all the children who had been sent away from vulnerable cities and towns to a variety of locations in England and other countries to escape the bombings: “We know, everyone of us, that in the end all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.” 

   There are wars made by men, but there are also wars of pestilence that are not invented, but are even deadlier for having been inflicted. Yet there never is a day without the supernatural combat that engages each soul: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). In that battle, the Risen Lord clothes us with the mantle of victory, if we are willing to bear the weight of its glory. That is why Pope Gregory, after the people had prayed the “Queen of Heaven” prayer in that procession, chanted a new line as Saint Michael appeared: “Pray for us to God. Alleluia.”

    In hard times people have consoled each other with the promise: “We’ll meet again.” Because of the cruelties of circumstance, not all did meet again, not in this world. But the joy of Easter is this: Just as the disciples met again the Lord they thought they had lost, so may we meet Him on what our limited language calls “some sunny day.” He is the Living Word who made all things, so he says in speech not limited by mortal intelligence: “A little while, and you will no longer behold me; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).


2020-04-05 - Palm Sunday

2020-04-05 - Palm Sunday

April 5, 2020

5 April 2020

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

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 9 April 2017, Palm Sunday, Year A, using the same Readings as for today, 5 April 2020.

Passion According to Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 + Brief Homily

35 Minutes 0 Seconds

(Homily begins around 29:37)

Link to the Readings:


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


From the parish bulletin of Sunday, 5 April 2020:

  The term “parochial” is frequently used in a condescending sense, but no one today can get away with thinking that to be parochial is to be isolated from reality. As I write, the Navy hospital ship “Comfort,” last seen here on the Hudson River after the World Trade Center horror, is passing by our rectory windows. The convention center nearby, usually home to flower and boat shows, is being converted into a huge emergency hospital.

   This is how we approach the start of the Holy Week in which the faithful observe the most important thing that ever happened since the world was created. With powerful shock this Lent, mortifications have been imposed by circumstances beyond human control and not chosen by the exercise of free will. Now the Passion will be more powerful, because the Gates of the Temple are closed. The holy apostles thought themselves bereft of the One they hoped might be the Messiah. On the Mount of Olives, three of them slept a depressed sleep, haunted by anxious confusion. Varying circumstances in every generation have given the impression of being abandoned by the One who had promised to be with us always. Blaise Pascal wrote: "Jesus sera en agonie jusqu'à la fin du monde: il ne faut pas dormir pendant ce temps-là." (Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world. We should not sleep during this entire time.) The solemnity of those words was the freight of the confidence that tethers agony to victory.

   In a book I wrote years ago, I remarked that modern communications have made popes more visible than ever, but a dangerous result is the impression that their significance issues from celebrity. Last Friday, Pope Francis stood alone in the dark and rain of a totally empty Saint Peter’s Square, and then blessed the whole world with the Blessed Sacrament. Because it was in what is now called “real time,” it was a stunning evocation of the final scene in Robert Hugh Benson’s dystopian novel, Lord of the World. The Anti-Christ would try to destroy the Church, attacking the lone figure of the Pope exiled in Nazareth, as he holds the Blessed Sacrament. The future Pope Benedict XVI spoke of that book in 1992, and Pope Francis mentioned it in 2013 and 2015.

   Bulwer-Lytton wrote many fine things and is mocked only because one line has become a cliché. “It was a dark and stormy night.” That dark and stormy night when the Pope stood alone before the Basilica of Saint Peter was the harbinger of victory and not the whimper of defeat.

   Now there is even concern that palm branches might be infected. No matter. This will be a great Holy Week, because “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).


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