Father George William Rutler Homilies
2019-12-24 - Christmas

2019-12-24 - Christmas

December 24, 2019

24 December 2019

The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas):

Mass During the Night

Luke 2:1-14 + Homily

16 Minutes 2 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122519-the-nativity-of-the-lord-night.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-22 - Advent IV

2019-12-22 - Advent IV

December 22, 2019

22 December 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:18-24 + Homily

14 Minutes 59 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122219.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  I have long been of the opinion that preachers should avoid allusions to the painting “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt. This is not because it is inferior in any way. It is a tour de force of an artist’s craft and a prime example of the Pre-Raphaelite school that he began around 1848 with John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, trying to revive the mystical aura they thought had become somewhat lost in the cold rationalism of the Renaissance. They were  a lively and amusing coterie. Father Neville of the Oratory was offended when Millais smoked a pipe in the presence of John Henry Newman as he painted his great portrait of the saint. But His Eminence did not mind at all and was eminently amused.

   My hesitation about Hunt’s painting of Christ knocking on a door is that it has become a cliché. It has been copied countless times, and like Leonardo’s Last Supper, it is seen so much that it is robbed of its force and even suffers the degradation of reproduction on coffee mugs and tea towels. Hunt’s painting has further been badly caricatured, as in the modern version by Warner Sallman, in a descent from cliché to kitsch. But clichés become clichés because of their innate truth, even if they are responsible for dreary platitudes from the pulpit.

   Hence, the Advent days make reference to Hunt’s painting unavoidable, for its symbolism puts on the painter’s canvas, with color and linseed oil, what the scribe’s ink wrote on parchment: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

   At the risk of being tiresome, it needs to be pointed out that there is no exterior handle on the door, for it is the door of the human soul, which has to be opened from the inside. The door is covered with the thistles of sin. This is the moment when free will decides to open or shut. Free imagination assumes that the light Christ carries is seeping through cracks in the door’s rough wood, just as prophetic voices in Advent hint at a great Light about to shine  on the world.

   Over three centuries before the Incarnation, the Cynic philosopher Diogenes supposedly carried a  lamp through the streets, “looking for an honest man.” Since Christ is Wisdom itself, the lamp he carries in portraiture is not a searchlight. It is a reflection of the light of divinity that surrounds his divine head, for he is “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).

   On Christmas, the Church chants the words first uttered at Nicaea in Turkey by bishops who in many instances had been battered by darkened intellects: “Light from Light.” That is not a cliché.

2019-12-15 - Advent III

2019-12-15 - Advent III

December 15, 2019

15 December 2019

The Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Matthew 11:2-11 + Homily

16 Minutes 27 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121519.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

 Gaudete!—Rejoice!—is the name for the Third Sunday of Advent. The rubrics say the Advent penances and discipline are somewhat mitigated on this day. Gaudete Sunday is a respite, rather like one of those “film trailers” that give a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come. Even so, the sonorous hymns and rose colors of Gaudete Sunday are awkward vaudeville rather than true drama, if there is no penance to lighten and no discipline to lessen. “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).

   Saint Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of ink describing joy, just as Bach set “the joy of man’s desiring” to music. Joy is a fact that only the true God can give, and so it is more than a transient feeling of happiness. At the heart of human nature is the longing for joy, and this is the case even with miscreants who are deluded in thinking that sensuality, sloth, and even suicide will bestow a fugitive kind of happiness.

   Advent is the guide to true joy, and it has become a Lost Season, just as Confession has become a Lost Sacrament, because our culture is impatient for joy and tries to be satisfied with tinsel happiness. Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch that stole Christmas” has a twin in the Grinch that stole Advent. This means that the beautiful hymnody and literature of Advent is swept away. Even organizations that claim to be Christian have Christmas parties in Advent. Excuses for “rushing” Christmas would be amusing were they not so pathetic. That sober modern prophet, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the twentieth century.” That disease has become epidemic in our new century.

   Patience is one of the seven fruits of the Holy Spirit. It should strengthen the soul that is tempted to celebrate Christmas before Christmas. The excuse for doing that—“But everybody expects it”—merely means that the “Long expected Jesus” is not really expected. In contrast, persecuted Christians in diverse lands keep a more profound Advent, learning and living “all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). This has significant results. While persecution has driven Christianity in Iraq almost to extinction, the Chaldean Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa, has said that his people “lost everything except our faith in Jesus Christ” and are stronger for it. Moreover, he said, “many thousands of Muslims discovered the Person of Jesus Christ” after seeing the patient endurance of Christians.

   In Advent, has your example brought anyone closer to the deep joy of Christ? "Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).

2019-12-09 - Immaculate Conception

2019-12-09 - Immaculate Conception

December 9, 2019

9 December 2019

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Luke 1:26-38 + Homily

17 Minutes 38 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120919.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

2019-12-08 - Advent II

2019-12-08 - Advent II

December 8, 2019

8 December 2019

The Second Sunday of Advent

Matthew 3:1-12 + Homily

20 Minutes 22 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120819.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Of the “Four Last Things,” the Second Sunday of Advent treats Judgment. While it is superficially pious to ask, “Who am I to judge?” this has nothing to do with our Lord’s admonition: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Christians are obliged to judge (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Judgment is the ability to make a right discernment, and the chronic inability to do that is the definition of insanity. God is the ultimate judge, and all human judgment must conform to his justice. Otherwise, judgment is defective, based on “outward appearance” (John 7:24).

   The spiritual director of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Abbé Henri Huvelin, told a woman who accused herself of pride for thinking that she was one of the greatest beauties in Paris: “Madame, that is not a sin. It is merely a mistaken judgment.”

   In the second century, Justin Martyr told the Roman consul Quintus Junius Rusticus: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.”

   Great leaders like King Louis IX were just judges. As he was dying on the Eighth Crusade, he left a testament to his son and heir: "In order to do justice and right to thy subjects, be upright and firm, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, but always to what is just; and do thou maintain the cause of the poor until such a time as the truth is made clear.”

   The virtue of justice is twin to prudence. Naiveté is eviscerated prudence. So for example, the recent capitulation of some Vatican diplomats to the Chinese government was intended to secure justice for Chinese Catholics, but it only issued in their further oppression. Now, the Communists have ordered that if any church is not to be destroyed, it must replace images of Jesus with that of Xi Jinping. The lack of right discernment leads to untold suffering.

   The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is transferred this Advent to Monday. A depiction of Our Lady as the New Eve portrays her trampling on the head of Satan, shown as a serpent. This fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. It is the ultimate act of justice, which Mary, along with all Christians, can do by the power of the Just Judge, “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), who is the ultimate crusher of the Prince of Lies.

   By no means a Catholic mystic, some inspiration moved Julia Ward Howe to awaken before dawn in the Willard Hotel in 1861 and write with a stub of pencil, the “Battle Hymn” which includes the often-neglected lines: “Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, / Since God is marching on.”

2019-12-01 - Advent I

2019-12-01 - Advent I

December 1, 2019

1 December 2019

First Sunday of Advent

Matthew 24:37-44 + Homily

18 Minutes 11 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120119.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Given the many theatres that are or have been within walking distance of our church on 34th Street, it is not possible to count the number of times stage curtains have come down on a final act. One block away from us is the theatre built by Oscar Hammerstein, to compete with the old Metropolitan Opera House up on Broadway at 39th. Here on 34th Street, in what is now called the Manhattan Center, the Vitaphone sound system was used in 1926 to record the first soundtrack for a moving picture,Don Juan. Before the old Met’s gold damask curtain came down for the last time at 39th and Broadway in 1966, the greatest Madama Butterfly, Licia Albanese, who once sang in my former church,  rendered her last “Un bel dì” and then kissed with her hand the floorboards of the stage as the curtain came down before a weeping audience.

   In another venue, my grandmother had a vivid recollection of the consternation at the old Hippodrome up on 43rd Street in the late 1920’s when the curtain collapsed on the child star Baby Rose Marie. That forerunner to Shirley Temple survived and lived to be 94. Albanese was still singing when she died in 2014 at the age of 105.

   So curtains fall sooner or later, and we have Advent to remind us of that. The superficiality of a life may be measured by how seriously one takes Advent’s four themes of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Advent proclaims that a curtain is falling, even if a premature Christmas celebration with bells and elves, beginning with the Macy’s parade (two blocks east of our church), fabricates a distraction from that.

   If thought is not deep, there will be no real joy when the mysteries of God are disclosed. The bane of our times, and possibly of all times, is superficiality. This was illustrated at a synod of bishops in Rome in 2015, when papers of a politically correct nature were read, one after another repeating clichés to address the world’s problems. One consultant broke through the soporific jargon. Dr. Anca Maria Cernea, a prominent Romanian physician, whose father had been imprisoned by Communists for seventeen years, said:

“The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change.” The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion. Not an ever-increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism on our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on. What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.”

In the darkening days of Advent, the curtain falls on the old man, in sure and certain hope that it will rise for those who believe that there is born in Bethlehem the Savior, who will die in order to rise. 

2019-11-24 - Christ the King

2019-11-24 - Christ the King

November 24, 2019

24 November 2019

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Luke 23:35-43 + Homily

18 Minutes 22 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112419.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  If from time to time you have a sense that all things held dear in both Church and State seem to be collapsing, you might find a comrade in the Irish poet William Butler Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. 

   Yeats wrote that in 1919, and we are now in 2019. Actually, things have been falling apart since the Fall of Man. Each age has to contend with that collapse, and each has had recourse to Christ as the solution. In 1925, Pope Pius XI proclaimed the Feast of Christ the King. Not King of various nations cobbled together, but King of the Universe. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15, 17).

   Jesus Christ is the Word that brought into existence all that was in the mind of his divine Father. His kingship consists in the power of his Logos, which orders all things and is energized by the love between him and the Father, which pours forth as the Holy Spirit.  “In the beginning was the Word [‘Logos’] . . .” (John 1:1).

   In the logic of the Logos then, all things fall apart without Christ. Physically, all things hold together (sunestēken) in their elemental atomic structures. The compactness of matter requires gravity, electricity, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. The strong force keeps the nucleus together; otherwise it would come apart by the electrostatic repulsion between the positive protons. Christ the Logos prevents all things from collapsing, not only physically but morally and culturally. There will be a time when that happens, with a “loud noise” (rhoizedon), when all the elements, or atoms (stoicheia), dissolve (2 Peter 3:10).

   This dissolution happens as well in the human soul when the intellect and will tear themselves from the truth and will of God. This rupture is what is called sin. It affects cultures, too. So the philosopher Giambattista Vico described the transition of cultures from barbarity to civilization, and from civilization to hyper-civilization, and from that to post-civilization. The fourth stage lives off the detritus of civilization. Whether we are in the fourth stage—post-civilization—is disputed, but if and when it irrationally abandons Christ the King, whose power is not political but logical, it will be worse than the first barbarism because its disintegration is accelerated by the tools of its former civilization’s science.

   Every Christian is baptized to proclaim the Kingship of Christ, not just for personal salvation, but as a means of saving a culture in which “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

2019-11-17 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-11-17 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 17, 2019

17 November 2019

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 21:5-19 + Homily

18 Minutes 56 Seconds

NOTE: Fr. Rutler was out of town today. The homily attached is from the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time in 2016 using the same readings as today.

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Most of our Founding Fathers were not deeply informed about Catholicism, but they appreciated moral integrity when they saw it. When Albert Dubois, eventually the first resident Bishop of New York, fled the French Revolution, he lived for a while in the home of James Monroe. Patrick Henry taught him English, and Thomas Jefferson arranged for him to say Mass in the courtroom of the newly built State House of Virginia.

   On July 13, 1804, Jefferson wrote to the Superior and Sisters of the Ursuline order in New Orleans: “I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana; the principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.”

   Happily, at the end of October, the present Administration redressed restrictions on freedom of religion imposed in prior years. Previously, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had refused federal aid to the foster-care and adoption agencies of Catholic and evangelical Protestant foundations that oppose abortion and the redefinition of marriage. Moreover, the government will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools. Ironically, some of our church leaders, to maintain government funding for pre-kindergarten programs and the like, already agreed to remove crucifixes and religious symbols from parochial school classrooms.

   George Washington, who made a significant donation to the Augustinian order, took John Adams to a Catholic Mass in Philadelphia. For Adams, who lapsed into Unitarianism, the chapel might have seemed at first like a Hindu temple, but he found everything so awe-inspiring that he wrote to Abigail: “I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.” What most impressed him was the straightforward “moral” preaching of the priest.

   When Adams was only 21, he wrote: "… This World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State, but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence, after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety. And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire, and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune, against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”

   Perhaps Providence has saved our nation from the downward spiral of hostility to God. Whatever the future holds, Catholics should pray that their ecclesiastical leaders—and they themselves—will match the fortitude of strong voices now heard in the civic order with boldness for holy religion. 

2019-11-10 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-11-10 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 10, 2019

10 November 2019

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 20:7-38 + Homily

18 Minutes 49 Seconds

Note: Due to technical difficulties today's homily was not recorded. This homily is from 2016 using the same text for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Link to today's Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  Life in New York City can be hard for anyone who has difficulty accommodating paradoxes. For instance, the same City Council that has just banned the sale of foie gras on the grounds that it involves cruelty to force-fed geese, previously made New York the first city to pay mothers from other states to come here for abortions. With all due respect to Mother Goose, it seems hyperbolic to treat the over-feeding of ducks and geese as more inhumane than the destruction of the most helpless humans. Babies are human, yet there are those who do not see anything inhumane about killing a human child right up to birth.

   Another curiosity that becomes “curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice described Wonderland, was the recent decision of our mayor’s wife to include among proposed statues honoring women, two men who attained fame by pretending to be women. By sane logic, that would be like honoring the women of the Revolution with a statue of Benjamin Franklin dressed as Martha Washington.

   Another proposed statue celebrates a woman notorious for her promotion of infanticide, the majority of infants killed being female. In a poll to decide who should deserve a statue, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini won first place by a landslide. But in her 67 years of humanitarian work, she established 67 institutions, all of which promoted the dignity of life from womb to grave, with no aborting of babies or giving poison pills to the sick and elderly. The saint’s broken English would have been at a loss to describe men with husbands or women with wives. 

   Mother Cabrini’s labors were too exhausting for her to worry about foie gras, which she probably could not afford anyway. Yet the mayor’s wife defied voters and eliminated the saintly woman from the list of honorees. That is no problem, though, because the same Catholic Church that “social progressives” slander as sexist, has more statues of women  than the profligate City Council—with its hundreds of millions of dollars of unaccounted funds—could ever hope to match, and they include countless images of Mother Cabrini.

   Saints are the greatest people who ever lived, but to acknowledge their existence means that you have to acknowledge God, who alone is the source of heroic grace that raises human nobility to the level of sanctity. This is why the saints are nervously ignored by cynics who hold holy innocence in contempt.

   The newly canonized John Henry Newman preached: “What if wicked men took and crucified a young child? What if they deliberately seized its poor little frame, and stretched out its arms, nailed them to a cross bar of wood, drove a stake through its two feet, and fastened them to a beam, and so left it to die?”

   Perhaps our mayor’s wife might explain why Christ, more innocent even than an infant, was crucified, or how his suffering for our sins compares with foie gras.

2019-11-03 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-11-03 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2019

3 November 2019

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 19:1-10 + Homily

17 Minutes 45 Seconds

Link to the Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

  A 1973 film directed by Orson Welles was about forgers, and it turned out to be something of a forgery itself. Some of the information in “F for Fake” was itself faked. Later on, Welles claimed that this was deliberately done as a kind of joke, and he took to calling it an “essay” and “docudrama” rather than an authentic documentary. In art circles, some forgers have become celebrities, both for their skill and for their criminal cleverness.

   In the last century the Hungarian forger Elmyr de Hory duped over one thousand collectors with his copies of masterpieces. John Myatt swindled Sotheby’s and Christie’s with his. Robert Driessen made a fortune from his slick forgeries of Giacometti. More impressive was Han van Meegeren, who became a folk hero in Holland for the way he could forge works by Vermeer. In 1911, when the Mona Lisa was temporarily stolen, Yves Chaudron was reputed to have sold six copies to unsuspecting wealthy Americans. It is surprising that Michelangelo carved what he claimed was an ancient Roman sculpture of “Eros Sleeping,” which he aged by rubbing it with acidic soil. He did this when he was 21, possibly as a joke, around the same time that he made the Pietà, so he certainly was not lacking talent.

   A friend asked me why forgeries are less valuable than originals, if it is hard to tell them apart. The question can be annoying, but it has a certain logic. The answer, of course, is that the value of a work consists not only in its artistry, but in its originality. In that sense, what we call creativity is a gift of God who alone is the Source of all things, including life itself. Only God is the primary Creator, and humans are his pro-creators. We cannot produce something out of nothing.

   The more individuals allow God, by a right exercise of the free will, to shape their souls according to his likeness, the more their individuality becomes pronounced. This is the work of “sanctifying grace” by which God “perfects human nature,” as Saint Thomas described the process (Summa Theol. 1, 1, 8 ad. 2). The Anti-Christ cannot create, and so he tries to make human forgeries, by sin. The more people block the will of God, the more they become uninspired copies of each other. This is why sinners are predictable, while saints are always surprising. No two saints are alike.

   A figure of speech, synecdoche, uses one word, as part of something, to represent the whole. Forgers are synecdoches of all sinners who pretend to be creative instead of letting God work through them. The month of November focuses on the saints, who are not cleverly crafted imitations, but who are authentic images of God who "alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen nor can see" (1 Timothy 6:16).