Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sunday Sermon, January 27 -- A Sermon on a Book: Introduction to the Devout Life (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

What is devotion? St Francis de Sales tells us, "Devotion is the very real love of God." Jesus says, "Whoever loves me, keeps my commandments." Thus, devotion is not simply to keep the commandments, but to rejoice in following the law of God, to find one's great joy in the keeping of the commandments.

Yet, even as the body has many parts (as St Paul reminds us in the second reading of today's Mass), so too every member of the Church has his own particular vocation and state in life. Devotion means fulfilling God's commandments in the particular details of each one's circumstances and state in life.

We all want to become more devout, we all want to more joyfully fulfill God's commandments. But how do we grow in holiness? Who will guide us?  I propose to you, as your personal spiritual director, St Francis de Sales, and his classic book, "Introduction to the Devout Life."

If you have not already read "Introduction to the Devout Life," I would encourage you to set everything else aside and read this book. Read from it every day, read it two hundred times! I have found no other book to be as helpful to me as a priest, and St Francis de Sales has been for me a dear friend and spiritual father.

In this sermon, I give an overview of the book, and also offer a few points to help you appreciate the book all the more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sunday Sermon, January 13th -- The Baptism of the Lord as Epiphany (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In our Catholic Tradition, the Epiphany of the Lord commemorates three mysteries: The visit of the Magi thirteen days after out Lord's birth, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by St John, and the miraculous changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. In each of these mysteries, our Lord's divinity is made "manifest" (Epiphany means manifestation). This is what connects our Lord's Baptism with Christmas, it is the manifestation of the incarnation, that the man Jesus Christ is truly the beloved Son of the eternal Father, God from God and Light from Light.

Thus three-fold Epiphany also calls to mind the key role of Mary and Joseph in the manifestation of who Jesus really is. If we desire to understand the divine relation of Jesus to his heavenly Father, I propose we may learn much from meditating upon the relation of Jesus to Mary. On the other hand, we look especially to St Joseph as we meditate upon the relationship of Jesus in his humanity to his heavenly Father.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sunday Sermon, January 6th -- Epiphany and Interior Conversion (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The feast of Epiphany really is the Christmas of the Gentiles, the day in which the mystery of Christ's birth was revealed to all the nations (symbolized by the Three Wise Men). This feast, in the early Church, was celebrated with even more solemnity than Christmas!

The historical journey of the Magi is a model for our interior conversion as we progress through the spiritual life. First, the Magi must set out from a pagan land and people - even as we must abandon vain and worldly pursuits, setting out in earnest to gain the great good of holiness.

However, this first conversion of the Magi was not sufficient, for although they sought spiritual goods, they still had a worldly approach. They went to the palace, where the rich and powerful are found - but the Child was born among the poor in the city of Bethlehem. So also, when we begin to seek spiritual things, we tend to retain a worldly or secular approach to the faith and to the Gospel. We want to be faithful, we want to embrace the teaching of Jesus; but we also want to be popular, to be accepted by the world, or at least to be acceptable to our fellow Catholics. There is a tendency to want to be "middle of the road" and not "rock the boat" - seeking to be successful while also following the Lord.   But like the Magi, we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful - Epiphany is an invitation to follow the Wise Men along a path of humility and fidelity to the Lord, seeking spiritual goods in a spiritual manner.

Holy Day Sermon, January 1st - Mary, Mother of God - The Octave of Christmas and Mary's Joy (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

There are three mysteries commemorated on January 1st: The Octave Day of Christmas, The Circumcision of the Lord, and the Maternity of Mary.

The Octave of Christmas: We must remember that Christmas is not over, in fact, it has not even yet fully begun. We are still in the twelve days of Christmas, and the feast of Christmas is not even complete until Epiphany on January 6th. Yet, the liturgical season of Christmas extends to the feast of Our Lord's Baptism on January 13th. Furthermore, the spiritual devotion of Christmas extends for forty days through to our Lord's Presentation in the Temple on February 2nd. Be sure to celebrate Christmas through the whole of Christmas Season!

The Circumcision of the Lord: This is the day in which the Child began to be called Jesus. January is month of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Mary, Mother of God: Our joy in Christmas is the joy of Mary. Even as there is so much joy in a new mother over the birth of her child, we are invited to rejoice with Mary and St Joseph in the birth of the Christ!

Sunday Sermon, December 30 -- Jesus' Obedience to Joseph and Mary, and Obedience in Our Lives

A preliminary note regarding two common heretical errors people (even priests) often make when interpreting the Sunday Gospel about the Child Jesus being found in the Temple after he was lost for three days.

First, "He grew in wisdom and age and favor before God and men." Our Lord Jesus did not "grow in knowledge" simply speaking through his life, for he knew everything from the first moment of his conception. However, he grew in knowledge "before God and men," meaning that the perfection of his knowledge was progressively revealed to men - indeed, the very revelation of this passage of St Luke's Gospel is that Christ's perfect wisdom aroused admiration in men.

Second, "Son, why have you done this to us?" We must never think that Jesus was in any way disobedient to Joseph and Mary, or that he ever did anything that was less than perfect. In fact, the very point of this passage is that "Jesus was obedient to them" - the Christ Child is the model of obedience, who give true honor to his foster-father and mother. Indeed, Jesus' obedience to Joseph and Mary reveals the perfect obedience he has as man to his heavenly Father.

The obedience of Christ is a model for our own obedience. Charity is the virtue which brings the soul to perfection, but three other virtues protect and advance charity in the soul: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Poverty consecrates our external possessions to God, chastity consecrates our body to God, but obedience (which is most interior, and therefore most necessary) consecrates our heart to God.

Our obedience to God is expressed and realized in our obedience to them God has placed in authority over us. Children, obey your parents. Wives, obey your husbands. Men, obey your pastors and your government.

Christmas Sermon, December 25 -- The Eucharistic Mystery in Christ's Birth (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Christ is born in Bethlehem, which means "House of Bread." He is laid in a manger, which is a food basket for the animals. He would one day teach us that he is the "Bread of Life." The shepherds of Bethlehem who came to adore him were those entrusted with watching over the sheep which would be sacrificed in Jerusalem for the nation of Israel - and now they adore the true Lamb of God.

The circumstances of Christ's birth point us to the Eucharistic Mystery of his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Sunday Sermon, December 23 -- Even the Protestants Become Catholic at Christmas (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Christmas is a time to emphasize Christian unity, and there are many graces available to bring about conversion. In this sermon, we present a number of arguments or examples which show that even the most fundamentalist Protestants can't help but become a little bit Catholic at Christmas time.

1) The veneration of holy images and of saints, in the Nativity Scenes.
2) Greater attention given to Mary so as to come more fully to Jesus, in Christmas songs.
3) Celebrating "man-made" Holy Days, in the very celebration of Christmas.

The deeper reality that draws Protestants to a Catholic manner of worship during Christmas season is that the mystery of Christmas is the incarnation, that God truly became Man. The real heresy of Martin Luther and the other Protestants turns out to be a rejection of the importance of Christ's humanity.

Advent Adult Ed Course on the Traditional Latin Mass for the Church Today (December 4th, 11th, 18th -- Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

We consider the significance of the various words and gestures of the priest during the Traditional Latin Mass, and how we can more fully participate in the Traditional Mass. Further, we point out many ways in which the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass is helpful for both the priest and the people, and how the Traditional Mass will bring a much needed healing to a deep wound of division which has occurred in the Church in the years since the Second Vatican Council - the Church today seems almost to be divided against herself, her history, her tradition, and her Mass.

Sunday Sermon, December 16 -- The Right to War, the Right to Private Property, the Love of the Poor (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

St John the Baptist gives an implicit approval of both just war and private property when the people come to ask him "What should we do?"  To the rich, he does not deny the right to private property, but only says they should be generous to the poor. And, to the soldiers, he does not deny the right of nations to go to war (in just circumstances), but only commands them to be good soldiers.

Nations have a right to wage war either for their own defense or the defense of their rights, or even for the defense of weaker peoples who are suffering oppression. Still, this should only be a last resort - as war does bring much suffering.  The right of nations to wage war is a safeguard to check unjust aggression and greed.

Individuals have a right to private property, and this is why communism and socialism are true heresies which Catholics must reject. Socialist strive to take the wealth of the rich and redistribute it to the poor, and they further strive to subject the family to the whim of the State (redefining the nature of marriage and family life). We note that the democratic party in the USA is dangerous close to socialism, and the Church (Bl Pius IX and St John XXIII especially) has stated that a Catholic cannot be a socialist.

But private wealth is meant to be not only for the benefit of the rich, but also to be used to relieve the sufferings of the poor. If we desire to grow in a love for the poor (which is one of the essential fruits of the Christmas mystery), we can look to the great saints (like St Wenceslaus) and to our Lord (who became poor so that we might be made spiritually rich).