St. Ambrose

Today the Catholic Church  celebrates the memory of St. Ambrose, the brilliant Bishop of Milan who influenced St. Augustine's conversion and was named a Doctor of the Church.

Like Augustine himself, the older Ambrose (born around 340) was a highly educated man who sought to harmonize Greek and Roman intellectual culture with the Catholic faith. Trained as a lawyer, he eventually became the governor of Milan. He manifested his intellectual gifts in defense of Christian doctrine even before his baptism.

While Ambrose was serving as the governor of Milan, a bishop named Auxentius was leading the diocese. Although he was an excellent public speaker with a forceful personality, Auxentius also followed the heresy of Arius, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Although the Council of Nicaea had reasserted the traditional teaching on Jesus' deity, many educated members of the Church – including, at one time, a majority of the world's bishops – looked to Arianism as a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan version of Christianity. Bishop Auxentius became notorious for forcing clergy throughout the region to accept Arian creeds.

At the time of Auxentius' death, Ambrose had not yet even been baptized. But his deep understanding and love of the traditional faith were already clear to the faithful of Milan. They considered him the most logical choice to succeed Auxentius, even though he was still just a catechumen.

With the help of Emperor Valentinan, who ruled the Western Roman Empire at the time, a mob of Milanese Catholics virtually forced Ambrose to become their bishop against his own will. Eight days after his baptism, Ambrose received episcopal consecration on Dec. 7, 374. The date would eventually become his liturgical feast.

Bishop Ambrose did not disappoint those who had clamored for his appointment and consecration. He began his ministry by giving everything he owned to the poor and to the Church. He looked to the writings of Greek theologians like St. Basil for help in explaining the Church's traditional teachings to the people during times of doctrinal confusion.

Like the fathers of the Eastern Church, Ambrose drew from the intellectual reserves of pre-Christian philosophy and literature to make the faith more comprehensible to his hearers. This harmony of faith with other sources of knowledge served to attract, among others, the young professor Aurelius Augustinus – a man Ambrose taught and baptized, whom history knows as St. Augustine of Hippo.

Ambrose himself lived simply, wrote prolifically, and celebrated Mass each day. He found time to counsel an amazing range of public officials, pagan inquirers, confused Catholics and penitent sinners. The people of Milan never regretted their insistence that the reluctant civil servant should lead the local church.

His popularity, in fact, served to keep at bay those who would have preferred to force him from the diocese, including the Western Empress Justina and a group of her advisers, who sought to rid the West of adherence to the Nicene Creed. Ambrose heroically refused her attempts to impose heretical bishops in Italy, along with her efforts to seize churches in the name of Arianism.

Ambrose also displayed remarkable courage when he publicly denied communion to the Emperor Theodosius, who had ordered the massacre of 7,000 citizens in Thessalonica. The chastened emperor took Ambrose's rebuke to heart, publicly repenting of the massacre and doing penance for the murders.

“Nor was there afterwards a day on which he did not grieve for his mistake,” Ambrose himself noted when he spoke at the emperor's funeral. The rebuke spurred a profound change in Emperor Theodosius. He reconciled himself with the Church and the bishop, who attended to the emperor on his deathbed.

St. Ambrose died in 397. His 23 years of diligent service had turned a deeply troubled diocese into an exemplary outpost for the faith. His writings remained an important point of reference for the Church, well into the medieval era and beyond.

At the Catholic Church's Fifth Ecumenical Council – which took place at Constantinople in 553, and remains a source of authoritative teaching for both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians –  the assembled bishops named Ambrose, along with this protege St. Augustine, as being among the foremost “holy fathers” of the Church, whose teaching all bishops should “in every way follow.”


Isaiah 40:1-11

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
6 A voice says, "Cry!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people is grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.
9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.


Matthew 18:12-14

12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.


Psalms 96:1-3, 10-13

1 O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yea, the world is established, it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity."
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy
13 before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.


Lord God, our Good Shepherd, lead us into Your fold as You protect us from all harm

Tuesday December 7 2021
2nd Week of Advent
St. Ambrose, bishop & doctor  
Is. 40:1-11;  Ps. 95:1-2,3,10,11-13;  
Mt. 18:12-14  (Ps Wk II)


The parable in the Gospel is familiar to us. It reflects the love of God, as the Shepherd who would risk everything to find the lost sheep. When he finds it, he rejoices over it. Likewise, if a member of a Christian community goes astray, the fellow members of the Church would try to win the person back to the       community.  (Mt.18:15).

We often pray for unity in families.  If a member of the family needs help, it is the duty of the rest of the family to reach out to the seemingly ‘lost one’. This is a reminder to us Christians, the followers of Christ, to live in service to one another in humility and sacrifice.  This is a reflection of ‘love’ in a community. We are called to make sacrifices for the love of others.

The image of the Shepherd is reiterated in the first reading wherein God, like the Shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms and holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.” (v.11)

When we contemplate this scene, we feel the closeness and intimacy with Christ, our Saviour. 

May the spirit of self-sacrifice and humility, like that of Jesus, lead us to form a loving, caring and forgiving Christian family/community.

Let us prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus in our hearts this Advent season. 

“Lord God, our Good Shepherd, lead us into Your fold as You protect us from all harm.”