Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue through the second Sunday of the Advent season, and we go deeper into the preparation we are carrying out this Advent, to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s readings serve as a further reminder of the eventual coming of our Lord in triumph, just as He had once come into the world as one of us, as Jesus Christ the Son of Man.
Today’s readings spoke about the servant and messenger of God’s will, John the Baptist, the one who was sent by God ahead of Himself, to prepare the way for His coming and to prepare the people so that when He Himself came, they would be ready and more prepared to listen to His message and be called to salvation. This in itself, also carries the same meaning of ‘preparation’ which Advent is truly about, the preparation for the coming of Christ.
We can see that the Lord had planned everything well in advance, and indeed, the coming of John the Baptist had been prophesied long earlier by the prophet Isaiah and the other prophets, who spoke of him as the second coming of the prophet Elijah into this world, and as God’s messenger to open up His path. Indeed, John the Baptist had been prepared for this mission from the very beginning, just as his conception and birth was special.
The prophet Elijah, if we read the Old Testament in the Book of Kings, was the faithful servant of God and prophet, who strived to bring the people of God who had erred in their ways and rebelled against the Lord, to return to the way of the Lord and be reconciled to Him. The authorities, the kings of Israel and their servants often made his works difficult, and it was often that he was hounded and pursued for his faith to God.
Yet, the prophet Elijah never gave up nor did he abandon his calling. He ministered faithfully to the people of God, and he endured all the difficulties, calling on the people of God to repent and change their ways, and many responded to his call, although equally many of them rejected his call and continued in their sinful ways. He was then, at the end of his mission, brought up to heaven on flaming chariots, and was hidden from the view of men ever since, until his coming again into the world as John.
John was born with the spirit of Elijah on him, and thus he was prepared to continue the same ministry which God had entrusted to Elijah. Even many centuries after the first coming of Elijah, and after the terrible experiences of the Babylonian exile, the people of God was still filled with sin, and they were still following the wicked ways of their ancestors. Thus, what Elijah had once done to bring the people of God back, needed to be done again.
The Lord had, for a long time, promised his people that He will come to save them and bring them back to Himself. He had promised His salvation through the Messiah that He would send into the world. But in a world still filled with so much sin and wickedness, especially even among the people of God, the people of Israel and Judea, the coming of the Messiah would have been made much more difficult if it had not been well prepared beforehand.
Thus, God sent his servant John, the second coming of Elijah, into the world so that he might straighten the path for the Messiah, or the Christ when He came. And that was what St. John the Baptist did, he laboured in thankless works, reviled and rejected by the Pharisees, who criticised him and questioned and doubted the authority and authenticity of his actions.
Yes, just as the people and the kings of Israel rejected Elijah and persisted in their sins, the same too occurred to John the Baptist. The Pharisees and the elders refused to see their sinfulness and refused to repent, thus later on they would prove to be great enemies and stumbling blocks for our Lord as well. Nevertheless, many people responded to John’s call, giving themselves to be baptised in the Jordan and repented from their sins.
Today, we also celebrate the feast of a saint, whose life and ministry would closely resemble what St. John the Baptist had gone through. St. Ambrosius or St. Ambrose, known better as St. Ambrose of Milan, through his position as the Bishop of Milan, was a great saint, a great pillar of the Church, a holy servant of God, one of the original Doctors of the Church, and ultimately, a fierce and fearless defender of the true Faith.
St. Ambrose was born during the late era of the Roman Empire, and he lived during a time when the Faith had been accepted as part of the Empire, and was being followed by more and more of the people of the Empire. However, many of the faithful at that time were misled by the numerous heresies and perversions of the Faith, leading them into wicked sins, which St. Ambrose would help to counter.
Despite being known as the Bishop of Milan, one of the most influential posts at the time in the Church, St. Ambrose was not originally meant for a life in the episcopate or even priesthood. St. Ambrose was a very influential and intelligent person, and his great intellect helped him to master many learnings and he was soon appointed as the Imperial Governor of the region of Aemilia-Liguria, and he was a very popular governor, as he was truly very competent and dedicated.
There was a great division in the Church at Milan at the time, the capital of Ambrose’s governorate, and after the bishop of Milan at the time, who was one of the heretics, died, the succession was filled with great bitterness and feud. St. Ambrose went to the church where the election was held, to prevent fighting and chaos from breaking out.
There, he was acclaimed by all present to be the new Bishop of Milan, regarding to his piety and popularity among the people, his righteousness and upright nature. He was immediately then ordained as a priest and the episcopate. Immediately, as the Bishop, he forbade all the teachings of heresies in his domains, and he strived hard to spread the true teachings of the Faith to the people entrusted under his care.
St. Ambrose did not have it easy, as there were many oppositions and challenges which he had to endure and counter against throughout his ministry. In particular, the Dowager Empress and the young Emperor under her care were heretics and influenced by the teachings of heresy. St. Ambrose tried hard to bring them and many others to see the Light of the true Faith, and many repented, but not the Empress and many others.
St. Ambrose publicly denounced even the Emperor, the Dowager Empress and the other heretical accomplices they had. This indeed reminds us of what St. John the Baptist had done, brothers and sisters? He who opposed and denounced the Pharisees publicly as brood of vipers and evil. And also Elijah, who condemned kings who caused the people to turn against the Lord their God.
And St. Ambrose did not even fear to excommunicate a powerful and mighty Emperor of the mightiest Empire in the world. The famous Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great, who vanquished his enemies and gained supreme power over the whole of the Empire, even though he was pious and true to the orthodox faith, but he was implicated in his part in the great massacre of the civilians and innocents in the great city of Thessalonica.
St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor and condemned him greatly in public for his involvement in the massacre. Only after the Emperor repented and in great humility, taking off his Imperial garments, wearing sackcloth and making public confession for his sins and reaffirmation of his faith in God, then St. Ambrose forgave his sins, and welcomed him back into the Church of God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what are the significance of what I have shared with you, on this Sunday’s readings, on the lives of Elijah, St. John the Baptist and St. Ambrose of Milan? All of them are about that all of us ought to make ample and sufficient preparation to prepare for the coming of our Lord. We cannot be complacent and unprepared, for remember, in the second reading today, St. Peter in his letter reminded us yet again, that the coming of the Lord will be like a flash, fast and unpredictable. If we do not prepare thoroughly, then we will be caught unaware and unprepared, and grim is our fate if that is the case.
How do we then prepare ourselves? We have to follow the examples of the holy and devoted servants of God, which we have already just heard. We have to stand up for our faith and truly practice it in our own lives. And then, we should not be afraid to point out the truth of Christ to others. After all, through our baptism, we have been called to be the witnesses of the Lord in this world, and as witnesses, it is only fitting that all of us do our part to evangelise the Good News, through our actions, so that all who see us may know the Lord through us and come to believe in Him.
It is important that all of us are prepared thoroughly for the coming of Christ, and thus it is also fitting that we should help one another in our preparations. We mist safeguard each other and keep one another in the faith in Christ, and in order to do so, we too should be prepared ourselves. Therefore, learn about the Faith we have in God, strengthen our devotion for the Lord and read always the Holy Scriptures with understanding.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Advent be a great opportunity for us to renew ourselves, in our commitment to serve the Lord, and in our commitment to live our faith faithfully and genuinely, with love both for Him and for our fellow men. Let us follow the examples of the prophet Elijah, St. John the Baptist and St. Ambrose of Milan in their great courage to be witnesses of the faith. We too can be like them, and it is important that when the Lord comes again, as He had promised, He finds us ready, prepared, alert and awake!
May all of us become like the holy servants of God, and preparing the way for our Lord, just as those holy servants had done in the past. Let us bring the Good News of God and become witnesses of His to all the world by our actions, filled with faith and love, so that we may bring more souls to salvation, and make ready this world for the future coming of our Lord in glory, and He will reward us on the last day. God bless us all. Amen.
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