Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-09-27 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-27 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 27, 2020

27 September 2020

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 21:28-32 + Homily

16 Minutes 37 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 27 September 2020:

“And now for something completely different,” as the entertainment industry is wont to say. Some aspects of liturgical worship are used for reasons that express the psychology of praise. For instance, there are vesture, candles, bells and, especially, holy water. The more that worship is confined to cerebral edification, the less attention is given to the offering of all human senses in the worship of God. After the Protestant schism, the pulpit replaced the altar, and churches became more like lecture halls with comfortable pews for listeners.
   So for something different, consider incense. Puritan influences abandoned what was redolent of sacrifice, and in particular the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which fulfills the symbolic sacrifices within the Temple in Jerusalem, with Christ himself becoming the perfect Sacrifice and the indestructible Temple. As an instance of “the old made new again,” the scent and smoke offered by the priests in Solomon’s courtyard (Psalm 141:2) are perfected in praise of Christ the High Priest. Egeria, the fourth-century indomitable lady pilgrim from Spain, or possibly France, mentioned the incense offered by Christians in Jerusalem at the holy sites. 

   Even after the rejection of the Mass by order of the Tudors, the use of incense lingered in the cathedrals of Ely and York. Incense from the Sarum form of the Latin Rite, which was developed in the eleventh century in Salisbury, continued by force of custom well into the eighteenth century. A canon of the Salisbury cathedral chapter finally eliminated it because he said it affected his breathing, which many considered a poor excuse inasmuch as he took liberal doses of snuff while seated in choir. 

   Ironically, considering the way flaccid celebrants used post-Vatican II liturgical changes as an excuse for neglecting incense, the Novus Ordo rubrics provide unlimited use of incense, while the Extraordinary Form limited it to solemn celebrations. 

   The Magi gave the Holy Child presents of gold and myrrh and the essence of Boswellia serrata, which is the resin known as frankincense. The incense used in church may be pure frankincense or a combination of it with other aromatics, but its base comes from the sap of an arboreal bark, which recent science has discovered has properties that relieve anxiety and depression by activating ion channels in the brain. More importantly, one study at the Jena Friedrich Schiller University in Germany claims that frankincense contains anti-inflammatory substances produced by Boswellic acid, principally the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase, which can alleviate the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Whether its anti-inflammatory properties can thwart the Covid-19 Wuhan Coronavirus is not yet established, mindful of the cautions of the Food and Drug Administration. But burning frankincense reduces airborne bacterial counts by 68%. More important is the office of incense as an earthly hint of worship in heaven, where there are “harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).

2020-09-20 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-20 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 20, 2020

20 September 2020

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 20:1-16A + Homily

19 Minutes 49 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 20 September 2020:

. In our days of widespread inarticulateness, the word “awesome” is so overused that it loses its power. It is rooted in the Old English “egefull,” which means causing profound reverence. So, to call a good dinner or a new dress “awesome” is overkill. Only in the nineteenth century did its equivalent, “awful,” come to mean something bad. It is said that when Queen Anne first saw the completed St. Paul’s Cathedral and told Sir Christopher Wren that it was awful, the architect was moved by the compliment.

   After the patriarch Jacob saw in a dream that ladder reaching to heaven, he cried out, “How awful is this place!” and he called it Bethel, the House of God. He had seen angels ascending and descending on the ladder. It is fitting that the magnificent crucifix suspended from the ceiling in our church should hang over our altar, for in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the angels and saints unite heaven and earth in worship, and Christ makes the Cross a ladder of heavenly access. By it he is able to descend to the altar, True Body and Blood, without diminishing his eternal glory. “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

   Having celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross this past week, the Church remembers that, as Cardinal Gibbons wrote, the veneration of the Cross “is referred to Him who died upon it.” In 787, the Second Council of Nicaea distinguished veneration of the Cross from the worship (“latria”) that belongs to the Divine nature alone. The Cross, as Saint Bonaventure hymned, is the Medicine of the World (“Crux est mundi medicina”) because of the healing power of the crucified Good Physician.

   At a prize fight, when one of the boxers made the sign of the Cross upon entering the ring, a man seated next to me asked sardonically if that meant he was going to win. As a Doctor of Sacred Theology, I felt qualified to reply that it depended on how good a boxer he was. But the awful Crucifix does have power when human intellect and will are consecrated to the Crucified.

   Around 325, Saint Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine (and, before her successful marriage, what we might call a “barista”) and Bishop Macarius, found what they believed to be the True Cross buried under the rubble of a Temple of Venus that had been built by the emperor Hadrian as a profanation of the Holy City. A generation later, Saint Cyril, second successor to Macarius, wrote: “Let us not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. … Make this sign as you eat and drink, when you sit down, when you go to bed, when you get up again, while you are talking, while you are walking: in brief, at your every undertaking.”

2020-09-13 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-13 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 13, 2020

13 September 2020

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 18:21-35 + Homily

16 Minutes 32 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 13 September 2020:

  In our city accustomed to protest demonstrations of all sorts, a recent one was particularly dismaying and even frightening. The anarchistic chants were bad enough, but the frightfulness was in the glazed eyes of the expressionless marchers, like the “pod people” in the 1956 cult film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Carrying signs supplied for them, they chanted refrains called out by a leader as they moved through one of our pricier neighborhoods. As a boy, the black-and-white film was scary, though in later years it was amusing to watch again, but now it has taken on an unsettling reality in the living color of live people. 

   Mind control is a signature of corrupt politics, and George Orwell said that “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” It is easy to appropriate the brains of people who are disturbed or idealistic or both. In the eighteenth century, the physicist and satirist George Lichtenberg volunteered that “The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted.” That is the essential psychology of heresies in religion, and it is also true of platforms in politics. 

   In any election season, when information is twisted by “disinformation,” one can learn with profit the experience of the Church as she has confronted distorters of the Gospel. A vital instance is the way Saint Paul detected the errors among the first Greek Christians on the island of Crete. Being a man of erudition, which his true humility allowed him to remark without affectation, Paul quotes a minor poet of about 600 BC, Epimenides: “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

   Epimenides is the same sage that Paul cites when he speaks to the philosophers of the Areopagus in Athens. The verse sent to Titus is paraphrased by the Apostle in Acts 17, when he speaks of the One “in whom we live and move and have our being.” A discovery of the full text of Epimenides’s poem “Cretica” in the early 1900’s by the formidable English scholar J. Rendel Harris, makes clear that the lying was a specific lie—namely about a tomb built in contradiction to the supposed immortality of Zeus. This resolves what has been called the “Epimenides Paradox:” If Epimenides said that all Cretans are liars, how can we trust Epimenides who was himself a Cretan? But in fact, the deceitfulness of the Cretans was only about trying to entomb immortality.

   Saint Paul invoked the gift of “diakrisis,” which is the discernment of truth from falsehood (1 Corinthians 12:10). Never, and especially not in times of political propaganda, should lies intimidate, so long as one has that discerning gift to know the difference between what comes from Christ, the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), and the talking heads on television.

2020-09-06 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-09-06 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 6, 2020

6 September 2020

The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 18:15-20 + Homily

16 Minutes 07 Seconds

Link to the Readings:


(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 6 September 2020:

  The Prince of Lies cannot lie in the presence of Christ: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34). And Christ who is the Truth knows him, too: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
   Satan does not want anyone to know him, and yet in the present discontent that afflicts our culture, many anarchists and Marxists invoke him. The desecration of churches and statues of saints is spreading. Twice recently, our own church has been defaced with Satanic symbols: not just the customary obscenities, but invocations of the Prince of Lies. 

   The mystics have known two characteristics of Satan. A Desert Father around 300 A.D., Abba Apollo, had a vision of him: “The devil has no knees. He cannot kneel; he cannot adore; he cannot pray; he can only look down his nose in contempt. Being unwilling to bend the knee at the name of Jesus is the essence of evil.” (cf. Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11) The other malignant quality of the Liar, as revealed to Saint Martin of Tours, is that he can look as attractive as Christ, but he has no wounds. Instead of taking our suffering upon himself, the Anti-Christ inflicts suffering. That is his infernal nourishment and macabre ecstasy. 

   Playing the Devil’s game is dangerous. He has concealed weapons, and the chief of them is deceit. At one recent political convention, a Religious sister from a dying community, in secular dress, prayed not to the Lord, but to “O Divine Spirit” in a way that would have been unobjectionable to a Hindu or an Aztec. With concomitant vagueness, she said that an opinion on the killing of unborn life was above her “pay grade.” At the convention that followed, another Religious in full habit, who is a surgeon and former Army colonel, Sister Deirdre Byrne, made clear that naming the lies of Satan was not above her pay grade as she held her “weapon of choice: the rosary.” 

   The rosary is the most effective private prayer in defying the Liar. The greatest public prayer is the Holy Eucharist. Four years ago in France, two Islamic terrorists sliced the throat of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel at the Altar of Sacrifice. His last words were: “Va-t’en, Satan!” (Be gone, Satan!) Christ had said the same in the wilderness and on the way to his crucifixion (Mark 8:33; Matthew 16:23). 

   Unlike some Catholics, who shy away from mentioning the name of Christ at public gatherings lest they give offense, the evangelist Franklin Graham prayed “In the mighty name of your son, my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Christ himself warned: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). 

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