Father George William Rutler Homilies
2020-10-25 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-10-25 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2020

25 October 2020

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:34-40 + Homily

17 Minutes 14 Seconds

NOTE: Due to technical difficulties today’s homily is not available. The homily recorded here was given on 29 October 2017, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time using the same readings as today.

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/102520.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 25 October 2020:

  In one survey of grammarians, two words deemed to be among the most beautiful sounding in the English language were Agape and Philadelphia. The problem is that these actually are Greek. There also are many aphorisms in the English language that have become so familiar that one may not realize that their sources are in antiquity. Take for instance “Who will watch the watchers?”—which originally was a phrase of the Roman poet Juvenal (b. 55 AD). He also coined the expression “a sound mind in a sound body,” and in college we were not allowed to forget its Latinity, for it was written on a wall of the gymnasium: “Mens sana in corpore sano.”

  Juvenal had a talent for lapidary expressions, and I suppose his most common one is “bread and circuses” from his Satire X. Precisely because he was satirical, he was not popular among the more thin-skinned Romans. Juvenal was of the senatorial caste, and much of a snob, for he disdained what some of our contemporary politicians have called “a basket of deplorables.” But his point was well taken at least in the sense that the majority of the populace could be controlled by being offered things, like government subsidies and sports, in exchange for the freedom they had enjoyed in republican Rome before Augustus created the imperial “deep swamp” that eventually led to the moral decay of their civilization.

  In our days of high political fever, one need not embellish the cultural parallels. A natural philosophical school of Stoics disdained vulgar seductions by the imperium, but they were of little threat, and when they became political obstacles, they could be eliminated the way Nero compelled Seneca to kill himself shortly before his elder brother Gallio did the same. It is not irrelevant to the story that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia, and the just judge who dismissed the case against Saint Paul (Acts 18:12-17). It was the emergence of the strange new cult worshiping a “Christos,” whom his followers said had risen from the dead in the backwater of Judea, that began to threaten the Roman “deep state.”

  Political discourse today has degenerated into riots because what is at stake is not a mere matter of government, but a crisis of humanity itself. There is a portion of the people that, as Juvenal satirized, “anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses,” but behind their superficial choice of living are sinister forces as from a swamp that would subvert by anarchy all that the Christian mind knows to be true.

  About one-fifth of the citizens in the United States are Catholic, and how they vote will determine how many of them really are faithful to the “Christos” who asked, “For what does it profit a man, if he shall gain he whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

2020-10-18 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-10-18 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 18, 2020

 18 October 2020

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:15-21 + Homily

16 Minutes 08 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101820.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 18 October 2020:

  Some of those dining before the gilded statue in Rockefeller Center in fair weather and skating there in the winter may not know that the glistening figure is Prometheus, one of the Titans who preceded the gods of Mount Olympus. He stole fire from Zeus, who then condemned Prometheus to everlasting torment by an eagle eating his liver, which was renewed each day. The liver was thought to be the seat of human emotion, and the agony expressed the consequences of overreaching in attempts at seizing power. Prometheus gave mankind gifts of the intellect, and so over the Rockefeller statue are words of Aeschylus, which perhaps do not command the attention of many diners and skaters: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” 

   While Greek mythology was sheer fantasy, it is psychologically insightful, as it symbolizes the complexities of reason and willpower. In this it is superior to the Norse mythology that gave Wagner his operatic bluster. Better Venus than Brunhilda. But what then of the true God who is revealed in Christ? He is not, like Zeus, infuriated at the theft of his power. It is true that he is “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24), but that jealousy is the desire of divine love to be loved in return, for that love endows human creatures with the gift of knowledge, freely sending fire to human souls at Pentecost. 

   Humanity has a hard time understanding why the Divine Love is logical and manifests that love by subjecting itself to that logic. By not being able to do irrational things, God shows his power by subjecting himself to that inability. For instance, God cannot make himself cease to exist (2 Timothy 2:13), and he cannot sin (Hebrews 4:15), nor can he lie (Titus 1:2). 

   In his Regensburg lecture in 2006, Pope Benedict calmly explained the difference between the Divine Logic incarnate in Christ and the Islamic concept of a god who is pure will, even if that will is irrational. Some who misunderstood his academic analysis rioted and murdered, and by so doing, proved his point. 

   If the Creator is illogical, then creation is chaotic. The only morality, then, is the assertion of strength. Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematographic propaganda for Nazism was called “Triumph of the Will” and not “Triumph of the Reason.” While Hitler disdained religion, in 1941 he treated cordially the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, because they at least agreed on the primacy of willpower over moral reason. 

   The model who posed for the statue of Prometheus in New York, Leonardo Nole, became a postman in New Rochelle and died in a nursing home in Sacramento, California. The RMS Titanic was so named to invoke the power of the Greek Titans. And we know what happened to the Titanic

 

 

2020-10-11 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2020-10-11 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2020

 11 October 2020

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:1-14 + Homily

19 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101120.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 11 October 2020:

  Of the many scientific contributions made by priests, including Father Copernicus’s heliocentrism and Father Lemaître’s “Big Bang” theory, some would rank higher the invention of champagne by Dom Pérignon. Something close to it had already been invented by monks near Carcassonne in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire in 1531. They were Benedictines like Pérignon, but he replaced wooden stoppers with corks and developed thicker glass bottles that enabled the production, a century or so later, of what we now call champagne.

  When Dom Pérignon first tasted what he had done to Pinot Noir in 1693, he shouted: “Come my brothers, I am tasting the stars!” Stretching that a bit, it is a good description of the Christian encountering Christ. It is more than Archimedes shouting “Eureka!” when he discovered a principle of hydraulics, because it is an embrace of eternity. So Saint Peter declares, in telling us to obey the prophecy of Scripture “like a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the day star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

  In Christ’s revelation of heavenly joy, he describes himself as the first of all stars: “I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). He appears to us first like a distant light, like Venus rising as a portent of the sun about to appear. As the Morning star, Christ contradicts the Anti-Christ, Lucifer, who once was called a bearer of light and even the Morning Star, before his fall: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)

  We are living in a kind of chiaroscuro time in history, alternating light and dark, effervescence and despair, and in this the stars can be a reflection of the human condition. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes in The Little Prince that “All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. ... But all these stars are silent.” His point is that star gazing can make one feel very much alone until there is a perception of the meaning of life, which requires a vision not by the eye but by the heart. Only when Saint Paul was blinded, could he truly see Christ, and it was like tasting stars. Or, as Shakespeare wrote in what can be transposed to a description of Christ the Morning Star: “His face will make the heavens so beautiful that the world will fall in love with the night and forget about the garish sun.”

2020-10-04 - St Michael

2020-10-04 - St Michael

October 4, 2020

4 October 2020

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

Patronal Feast (Transferred)

Matthew 21:33-43 + Homily

14 Minutes 54 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092920.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin of Sunday 4 October 2020:

  When explorers roamed what was to them a “New World,” they sent back to Europe descriptions of strange vegetation and wildlife, using familiar images to describe the unfamiliar. Spaniards in Peru reported that the llama was an animal with the body of a large sheep, the neck of a camel, and the head of a deer.

   In retrospect these descriptions were pretty good, but only because all material creatures are analogous to each other one way or another. This is not so in the case of purely immaterial and perfectly intelligent beings. There are ranks of them, the most extraordinary of which are called Cherubim and Seraphim, and by the fact of their unlikeness to anything in time and space, some descriptions of them in the Bible can strike us as outrageous: giant wheels the size of the universe covered with unblinking eyes.

   In their ranks, those who are called angels and archangels, meaning messengers of God, get involved in human events. They can show up in our daily commerce while we are unaware (Hebrews 13:2). Limited human art strains to portray their appearance when they choose to become visible. Fra Angelico did this sublimely. But then there was the school of the master stylist Bouguereau who made choirs of angels look like the Folies Bergère.

   Although they have no need of them, angels are often depicted anthropomorphically with wings, because material creatures like us cannot fly without them. But this has its limits, like the mythological Icarus who failed in his flight from Crete because the wax that stuck the feathers to his arms melted. Powerful icons of ageless angels frequently suffered the indignity of being replaced by images of chubby Raphaelite infants. When angels have appeared in time and space, and most importantly to Our Lady, they have had to calm humans down. One cannot imagine a pink and white baby cherub in a state of neglected dress having to say, “Fear not.”

   In 1857, our church was dedicated to the patronage of Saint Michael the Archangel, who was of supernal help during the Civil War draft riots and the burgeoning crime rate. Not for nothing was our neighborhood nicknamed “Hell’s Kitchen.” This year our streets have been under attack during the maliciously orchestrated and funded riots. The holy angels strengthen the classical virtue of “sophrosyne,” which is moral sanity based on reason and temperance, and is the opposite of riotous demagoguery.

   We have the privilege of transferring the Feast of Saint Michael to this Sunday, lighting candles before his statue, whose recently gold-leafed sword, too heavy for chuckling cherubs to wield, points at Satan. That Prince of Pride, and ventriloquist of anarchists, boasted: “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). But Saint Michael declares “Quis ut Deus” which freely translated from the tongues of angels into the vernacular of men, means, “Sorry, Liar. You ain’t God.”   

 

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