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“Making” History by Fr. George W. Rutler


Today was a crowded date in history. On April 6 in various years, Julius Caesar was victorious at Thapsus, King Richard I of England died of an infected wound, St. Louis IX of France was captured on crusade, the Scots signed the Declaration of Arbroath, which was a template for our own Declaration of Independence, the poet Petrarch fell in love with Laura, an earthquake nearly destroyed Dubrovnik, here in New York a slave revolt began near Broadway, the Battle of Shiloh began, celluloid was patented, the first modern Olympic Games began, Peary and Henson reached the North Pole, and the Pioneer 11 spacecraft was launched.

Actually, every date is replete with life-changing events because each hour connects past and present and future. Quite often news broadcasters will speak of “history being made today.” These are often people who know little of history. The plain fact is that each of us is constantly “making history” without knowing it, like Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme who was not aware that he was speaking prose.

Christ is the Lord of History because he guides it and gives it purpose. Without what we call providence, which is God’s plan for living, the pattern of human history would be just a tangle and not a plan at all, but rather a meaningless cycle, as many ancient philosophers thought and as many bewildered and bored people think today. When Lazarus died, the disciples were puzzled that our Lord sat down on the Jericho road and waited for a while before starting off for Bethany. But this was part of a plan. He tells them something that sounds strange at first: that during daylight people walk freely, but at night they stumble because “there is no light in them” (John 11:10). He does not say that there is no light outside them, for that would be physical light. He is speaking of himself, the “Light of the World.” That is, he illuminates the intellect and will, in order to reveal his plan for our mortal lives. Just as height is different from stature, so does seeing become perception when guided by the “light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5).

Such confidence in God’s plan explains the serenity of the saints. It is not despite rough times and challenges, but because they deliberately slog through them, that the saints know that Christ is in charge. Only human pride doubts that, as in the case of the Pharisees who plotted against the Lord of History even when they saw him raise Lazarus from the tomb. For them history was a static moment, and they did not trust where the Lord was taking them. But to those who follow him, he says the equivalent of the traditional helmsman’s cry, “Steady on.” In more elegant diction he says, “Be glad and rejoice forever and ever for what I am creating” (Isaiah 65:18).

We are now posting MP3 audio files of the gospel and homily of the 10:00am Sunday Mass.

Access the MP3 files of this year’s homilies.

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