Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-05-31 - Pentecost

2020-05-31 - Pentecost

May 31, 2020

31 May 2020


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 4 June 2017, Pentecost, using the same Readings as for today, 31 May 2020.

John 20:19-23 + Homily

17 Minutes 24 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 31 May 2020:

  In a letter Sigmund Freud wrote to his friend Edoardo Weiss on April 12, 1933, he reminisced about a visit to the Roman church of San Pietro in Vincoli: “Every day for three lonely weeks of September 1913, I stood in church in front of the statue, studying it, measuring it and drawing it until there dawned on me that understanding which I expressed in my essay.” His obsession with the statue of Moses reflected the anxiety it had caused its sculptor, for—according to tradition—when it was completed Michelangelo struck the statue with his chisel: “Say something!” Genius could not give it the life of which God alone is the author. In a form more accessible to children, Michelangelo was Geppetto wanting his wooden doll to become a real boy. And in more exalted cadences, this was Ezekiel asking, “Can these bones live?”

   “In him was life . . .” (John 1:4). At the Last Supper, the youngest apostle had pressed his head against Christ and could hear the beating of the Sacred Heart that had animated all creation. Only God can create life, but he has given his creatures the ability to “procreate.” This seems to have been the ultimate secret that he kept until he left this world in glory, promising to send to his believers his Holy Spirit, the bond of fecund love between him and his Divine Father. In the fourth century, Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote “. . . he gave this glory to his disciples when he said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22). Although he had always possessed it, even before the world existed, he himself received this glory when he put on human nature. Then, when his human nature had been glorified by the Spirit, the glory of the Spirit was passed on to all his kin, beginning with his disciples.”

   When people ask if Christ had a sense of humor, remember this: a sense of humor is basically a balanced mind’s perception of imbalance. Unbalanced people laugh at what is not funny. Fanatics, by definition, are a little off kilter, and so they have no sense of humor. As the Perfect Man, Christ had a perfect sense of humor and must have smiled most broadly when he spoke to his gathered followers, the nucleus of his Holy Church, in anticipation of the new Pentecost that completed the symmetry of fifty days after the Resurrection. He told them: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:25-27).


2020-05-24 - Seventh Sunday of Easter

2020-05-24 - Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 24, 2020

24 May 2020

The Seventh 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 attachewwwd hereto was given on 28 May 2017, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 24 May 2020.

John 17:1-11A + Homily

16 Minutes 17 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

 From the parish bulletin of Sunday 24 May 2020:

  In these days of closures, which must soon end, I am able to offer Mass quietly for the intentions of parishioners and others, and I often take the opportunity to use the Extraordinary Form, whose beautiful cadences end with the “Last Gospel.” This Johannine Prologue in hymnodic verse concluded the Liturgy from the earliest days of the Faith, as a reminder that “the Word was made flesh” and, by being received into the flesh of communicants, makes them living tabernacles commissioned to take Christ into the world. He is the Light that shines in the darkness, and “the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). 

   The present pandemic has spread a cultural darkness that contrasts with the growing brightness of late spring days. Any amateur artist, if untutored, must learn by experiment that the brightest colors in his paint box are brilliant on canvass not by themselves but by contrast with dark tones. There is remnant evidence that this application in art goes back about 2,500 years to the Athenian muralist Apollodorus. It may seem obvious, but it was not so until it was tried, and in fact it was gradually forgotten until rediscovered in the Renaissance. The contrast of light and dark, chiaroscuro, was mastered by the likes of Leonardo, Caravaggio and then Rembrandt and Vermeer. It conveys brooding as well as rejoicing, and “film noir” of modern cinematography made as much use of darkness as earlier art made of light. 

   It remains to be seen if what we call normalcy will be restored. It is certain that “things will never be the same” because things present by definition can never be what they used to be. Whether this be good or bad depends on what is learned from having passed from darkness into light (cf. Isaiah 9:2). This is the Gospel essence that the first Christians gave to a world that had accustomed itself to a life of shadows. “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). 

   During these long weeks, the absence of votive lights in a darkened church has contrasted with the candles that used to burn here, and I hope that soon there will be even more lit than before. But all this time, a lamp has burned before the Blessed Sacrament.

   One recalls that passage from Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited describing the sanctuary lamp in a desolate chapel during the darkness of a World War: “. . . the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones.”


2020-05-17 - Sixth Sunday of Easter

2020-05-17 - Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 17, 2020

17 May 2020

The Sixth 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 25 May 2014, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 17 May 2020.

John 14:15-21 + Homily

17 Minutes 43 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)


From the parish bulletin of Sunday 17 May 2020:

  The French theoretical physicist Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) was amazingly prolific and contributed much to hydrodynamics and thermodynamics, but his most important influence may be his philosophy and history of science. He refuted the superficial analysis of the relationship between physical science and religion as distorted by rationalists since the eighteenth century. Drawing on the qualifications of reason as given by Saint Thomas Aquinas, Duhem explored the foundations of scientific analysis in the Middle Ages in the experimental constructs of men like Buridan, Oresme and Bacon. 

   The doctrine of divine providence and the systematic order of the material universe, as systematized by the Catholic scholastics, gave the logic for scientific analysis. In short, it is only because there is a benign order to the universe that there can be material science, and this is true even among those who ignore that fact. 

   Such symmetry in the universe is replicated in history. This is why numerical systems are significant in the Bible. For instance, the Ascension of Christ happened forty days after the Resurrection. There is nothing “magical” about numbers themselves, but the fact that the number forty occurs 146 times in the Bible should strike any reasonable person as an indication that God choreographs events to accomplish his purposes. 

   Christ spent forty days in the wilderness and predicted that Jerusalem would fall forty years after his death and resurrection. Not by chance did he spend forty days between his resurrection and entrance into glory, preparing his followers for the rest of history. He would not let Mary Magdalene “cling” to him because he had to instruct others. He tutored those two men on the Emmaus road in the meaning of what the Scriptures had predicted. He went back to the rented Upper Room to show that he was not an illusion. He then spent time instructing crowds on occasion and evidently devoted more time to preparing the apostles for their missionary work. He was making clear that the Church is not a vestigial apparatus, but is the embodiment of his logic that created the universal order.

    The strange cloud that surrounded him as he seemed to vanish in his return to eternity was, like the Transfiguration, a glimpse into a dimension for which human optics lack a capacity fully to perceive. But it can be interpreted by the fact that the benign order of the created world is the result of a power for which mortal language has the term “love.” Inadequate as it may be, it definitely makes demands on those who want to participate in the divine glory that is so extravagant that it can be intimidating in what it requires. Having spent four years at hard labor in Siberia as a penalty for love of truth, Dostoyevsky wrote: “. . . active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with the love in dreams.”


2020-05-10 - Fifth Sunday of Easter

2020-05-10 - Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 10, 2020

10 May 2020

The Fifth 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 14 May 2017, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 10 May 2020.

John 14:1-12 + Homily

21 Minutes 17 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


10 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)


From the parish bulletin of Sunday 10 May 2020:

  “As I was saying…” That, more or less, is how Saint Athanasius began his homily each time he returned from exile. Over seventeen years, he was banished five times by four Roman emperors for reasons political and theological, but he persisted in defying the heresy of the powerful Arians who had a flawed idea of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. The persistence of Athanasius in the face of discouragement is honored by his inclusion along with Ambrose, Augustine and John Chrysostom in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

   Persistence against the odds shows the strength of humility, whereas its opposite, vainglory, is easily discouraged in difficult times. Athanasius, whose feast was recently celebrated, comes to mind in preparation for the feast this coming Thursday of the persistent Matthias. He is sometimes confused with Matthew the tax collector, one of the original twelve apostles. But Matthias was very much his own man, and even though he gets no mention in the Gospel texts, the book of the Acts of the Apostles records that he was one of the seventy disciples appointed by Christ, and was a witness to the Resurrection. 

   After the Ascension but before Pentecost, Peter summoned his fellow apostles to choose a man to fill the moral cavity left by the suicide of Judas. There was no precedent for this, so Matthias was nominated along with another early companion of Christ, Joseph Barsabbas, a reliable man, and in fact he was called Justus for that reason. As the soldiers had cast lots to see who would own Christ’s tunic, that disgrace was atoned for by the apostles casting lots, the equivalent of shooting dice, to choose one of the two. Matthias was the winner, if you consider a virtual assurance of martyrdom something devoutly to be wished. According to one tradition, Barsabbas became the holy bishop of Eleutheropolis, near modern Hebron. Matthias went on to preach the Gospel in Judea, and probably Turkey, and Ethiopia as well, finally shedding his blood for the Savior, perhaps in Jerusalem.

   Matthias left no extant writings, but his humble persistence is testimony to John Bunyan’s hymn:  

       There’s no discouragement

       Shall make him once relent

       His first avowed intent

       To be a pilgrim.

  Although there is no evidence that Matthias was an addict of any sort, because of his persistence he is the patron saint of alcoholics and others contending against various sorts of compulsive behavior. Early in the eighteenth century, the essayist Joseph Addison wrote: “If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.”

   That is sound domestic advice, and can invoke the examples of the virtuous of any age. The saints like Matthias and Athanasius take it to heights heroic with the results promised by the Risen Christ.


2020-05-03 - The Fourth Sunday of Easter

2020-05-03 - The Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 3, 2020

3 May 2020

The Fourth 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 7 May 2017, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, using the same Readings as for today, 3 May 2020.

John 10:1-10 + Homily

20 Minutes 19 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


 (New American Bible, Revised Edition)


From the parish bulletin of Sunday 3 May 2020:

  Eyebrows were raised when Queen Victoria commented that of all her predecessors, she would most enjoy a conversation with King Charles II. In the arrangements of their domestic lives they could hardly have been more unlike, but Charles was a man of attractive wit, and that was her point. In most ways, Voltaire was the perfect opposite of Pope Benedict XIV, but he admired the pope’s gifts as an astonishing polymath and even dedicated a stage play to him.

    The scientific and literary pursuits of Benedict did not concentrate his mind to the neglect of the ministry of the Church. He revived devotion to the Blessed Virgin as “Mother of the Church” in 1748, in the tradition of Saint Ambrose of Milan, who first used the title in the fourth century. As the Church is the body of Christ born of Mary, Pope Paul VI, previously an archbishop in the Ambrosian succession, formally proclaimed the title at the close of the Second Vatican Council. In 2018, our present Pontiff decreed that the Monday after Pentecost be a Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. This year on May 1, the bishops of North America put their churches under the protection of Mary, the Mother of the Church. 

   Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “The Church . . . carries the burdens of history. She suffers, and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary, on the other hand, is not an isolated individual. . . . She is carrying the mystery of the Church.” 

   In the Clementine Hall of the Vatican is an allegorical painting of a woman nursing symbols of the Four Evangelists. Christians who call themselves Evangelicals might find the depiction startling, but it is a reminder that one cannot be fully a “Bible-believing Christian” without the Church that nurtured the canonical formulation of the Holy Scriptures. 

   Deprived of the Church’s sacraments during the pandemic, the faithful can find resonance in the old spiritual: “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” The experience is not unique to the present time. In various plagues, churches have had to close. Christians, including missionaries, have also been denied sacramental access due to geographical isolation. 

   Sometimes the Church herself has imposed “interdicts” banning public worship for disciplinary reasons: Pope Adrian IV briefly placed Rome itself under interdict; by decree of John XXII, churches were shut in Scotland for eleven years; and Innocent III censured France for nearly a year, Norway for four years, and England for six. The circumstances were complicated and regrettable, but the results overcame previous lassitude and bonded the faithful to the Easter joy of the Blessed Mother. 

       Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia. 
       For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. 
       Has risen, as He said, alleluia. 
       Pray for us to God, alleluia.


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