Father George William Rutler Homilies
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:

http://cms.usccb.org/bible/readings/052420-day.cfm

(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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051720.cfm

(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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051020.cfm

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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050320.cfm

 (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.

 

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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042620.cfm

 (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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041920.cfm

 (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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041220.cfm
 (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/040520.cfm

(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).

 

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

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:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032220.cfm.

(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.”