Becoming Greater


The four weeks of Advent are a test of how profoundly or superficially we understand the meaning of life.

In these weeks, the Church reveals the deepest mysteries: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  Christ saves us from the banality of skimming life on the surface: eating, working, shopping, sleeping, waking up and doing it all over again.  He created us for great glory, and that is why people become frustrated when they ignore these great mysteries.  "Angst" is a kind of neurosis, stemming from an unwillingness to listen to the voice of Christ.  He may be drowned out temporarily by idle chatter and amusements, but as St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in Thee."

Rushing Christmas, and not thinking about what Christ wants us to be, are signs of a culture absorbed in itself, so that it becomes no greater than itself.  That old maxim is poignant no matter how many times we repeat it: "A man wrapped up in himself becomes a very small package."  More important than wrapping gifts in this season, is the obligation to unwrap ourselves: to confess to Christ our failings and our desire to live life as He wants it, so that we might rejoice with Him forever and never be separated from Him.

Our culture is enduring a severe test of itself.  If Christ does not rule our minds and hearts, mere humans will try to do it, and they will do it badly.  When the Judges of Israel wanted a merely human king, Samuel warned them: "He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his officials. He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become slaves" (1 Samuel 8:14, 17).

Our Lord promises that the truth will set us free.  His word is truth.  That is what He told Pontius Pilate, whose life was a dreary routine mired in cynicism.  But even Pilate was amazed that Christ's own people had "handed Him over" to the government.  By their own declaration, the crowd wanted "no king but Caesar."  Had they obeyed Christ’s truth, things would have been different for them.  Each generation is tempted to hand Christ over to cynics.  We do it when we barter our conscience for comfort and our freedom for frivolity.

If Catholics behaved as Catholics, our culture would be not be satisfied with getting little things from elected officials in exchange for our moral dignity.  If we only want things, we shall only be things.  Christ looks at us, as He looked at the crowds when He walked on this earth.  And amid the passing fashions of mindless men, He says: "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37).




Father George William Rutler. "Becoming greater."  From the Pastor (December 2, 2012).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001. 

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2012 Father George W. Rutler