Tuesday, 7 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to reflect on our lives and actions as we continue to journey through this season of Advent. Today we are all called to seek the Lord, our loving God and our Good Shepherd, Who has always ever showed concern and care for each one of us. He has always reached out to us, seeking to be reconciled with us, and we should recognise His ever present love, compassion and generous mercy.

Today, in our first reading as we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the prophet spoke of the words of the Lord, offering assurance and the coming of the Lord’s salvation for the people of God. This came in the context of the sufferings that the people had suffered for a long time for their disobedience, and all that they would still suffer, the humiliation and the trials and challenges, for having abandoned God and for having done what were wicked in the sight of God.

But the Lord assured them all through Isaiah that if they all were willing to turn to Him and seek Him, then He will come to gather them all and provide for them, as a Good Shepherd calling forth His sheep, gathering all of them scattered throughout the world and making them part of His one beloved flock. God will make them great and blessed once again, and they will enter into His glorious kingdom and receive the assurance of eternal life and joy with Him.

And all these were fulfilled by the coming of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all and the whole world, Who in our Gospel passage today reiterated the same truth and message, that the Lord indeed, as He often referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd, has come to this world to gather all of the lost sheep, so that the entire flock may become whole yet again. He came to us, in the flesh, to be with us and to help us find our way to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, of the shepherd who was so happy to have found the one lost sheep and went out all the way just to seek that one lost sheep, we should come to know of the truth that God has always ever been so patient with us, and based on what we have earlier heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, truly we should be able to realise and feel the great love that God has shown each and every one of us. He has done so much for us and He is truly willing to welcome us back into His embrace, that we may never be lost from Him again.

However, it is often that we are the ones who had been stubborn and persistent in our refusal to believe in Him, and despite the Lord’s constant attempts to reach out to us, we often spurned His love and compassion, rejected His mercy and generosity in trying to reach out to us and forgive us our sins. That is why it is important for all of us to remind ourselves of just how fortunate and blessed we are to have been beloved in such a way by the Lord, and how all of us should be grateful for this love and generosity we have received.

Today, we should also reflect on the life and the examples of a great saint that can become a truly wonderful inspiration for us on how we should live our lives as Christians. St. Ambrose of Milan, the great and renowned Bishop of Milan is a great role model to all of us, in his piety and dedication to God, as well as in his dedication to his flock and the salvation of souls. He was one of the four original Doctors of the Church and is widely revered throughout the Church for all history and up to this very day.

St. Ambrose was born into a high ranking Roman family and was the Roman governor of what is today the northern region of Italy, the province of Aemilia-Liguria when a particular turn of events brought him to be the Bishop of the important Diocese of Milan. At that time, the divisions within the Church were deep and terrible, as conflicts often arose between the supporters of the Arian heresy and the ones who remained faithful to the true teachings of the Church. The death of the Arian bishop of Milan led to a very heated and protracted election of his successor.

It was amidst all these that as St. Ambrose came to the election as a moderator in his role as the provincial governor that the Holy Spirit inspired the people gathered there, having known of the virtues and faith of this governor, to acclaim him as the next Bishop of Milan. Initially, St. Ambrose was hesitant to take up the office, as back then, although he was already nominally a Christian by faith, but he was not even formally baptised yet, and did not have a proper preparation in theology and many aspects of the Church.

Eventually, he obeyed the calling of God and was baptised, ordained as priest and bishop. As the Bishop of Milan, he adopted an ascetic lifestyle and committed himself to serve the needs of his flock. He helped to heal the divisions in the Church and gradually persuaded many of those who still held on to their heretical Arian beliefs to abandon those beliefs and return to the true faith of the Holy Mother Church. He dedicated much of his time to reform the Church not only within his own Diocese but also in the wider scope of the Universal Church.

He was a mentor, teacher and sponsor for St. Augustine of Hippo, another great and renowned Church father, who was to become another one of the four great original Doctors of the Church. St. Ambrose was also well-remembered for his confrontation with the Roman Emperor, the powerful and mighty Theodosius the Great, for his role in the deaths of many people in the Massacre of Thessalonica, one of the greatest cities of the Empire. St. Ambrose promptly excommunicated the Emperor, with the intention of leading him back towards God and not to give in to worldly corruptions from sin.

The Emperor was repentant, and he publicly denounced and confessed his own sins of having caused such a great dismay in the Church and for having sinned against God, laying aside his regalia and all the splendour of his office, and in the sackcloth of a penitent, he was welcomed back into the Church by St. Ambrose, whose actions and interactions with the Emperor Theodosius the Great reminded all of us of the dangers of sin, and how powerful the allure of sin is, and yet, at the same time, how generous God is with His mercy and compassion, as long as we are willing to embrace His love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard today through the Scriptures and the life and works of St. Ambrose, let us all reflect on our own lives. Have we lived our lives worthily as the Lord has commanded us to do? Have we been faithful as Christians, in dedicating ourselves to God? Or have we spent our time in indulging in our desires and in worldly pleasures and corruptions? These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves this Advent, as we recall God’s mercy, love and compassion at the same time.

Are we ready to welcome the Lord into our hearts and into our lives? Are we willing to be humble before Him, admitting our sinfulness and our wicked past, and like the Emperor, cast aside the trappings of our pride and ego, and seek the Lord wholeheartedly and strive to love Him with all of our might from now on? May the Lord be with us all and may He guide us in our journey of faith through this Advent season and through life. Amen.

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