Saturday, December 7, 2013

First Saturday of Advent: Feast Day of St. Ambrose

"Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." - Mt 10: 5a, 6-8
Today we celebrate St. Ambrose, a gifted speaker from 4th century Italy, and one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church. He was elected bishop of Milan before he was even baptized. One of my favorite stories involves St. Ambrose, one of the greatest speakers in the city, and a young atheist and professor of rhetoric who began attending St. Ambrose's masses to scope out the competition. After months of mass attendance and years of his mother's prayers, the atheist asked to be baptized by St. Ambrose. The atheist's name? St. Augustine, one of the greatest theologians in the Church's 2,000 year history.

We begin today's readings with a passage of consolation from Isaiah. Isaiah assures us that God will give us all that we need and will comfort us in all distress. We are encouraged to trust in the Lord's ways: “This is the way; walk in it.” Likewise, the Gospel reading gives us a glimpse of the fulfillment of this in the ministry of Jesus. In this passage from Matthew, Jesus is proclaiming the Kingdom in all the area synagogues, healing and curing. He is moved to pity by the people's needs, "like sheep without a shepherd," so he sends the disciples out in his stead to cover the entire area and they cast out demons in his name and cure all disease. Such discipleship isn't without cost. Immediately after this passage, Jesus goes on and on that persecution is to be expected. But that is for another day's reading. Today we rejoice in the compassion of Christ and the Good News of his Kingdom.

In this season of Advent, am I filled with the joy of God's merciful promise - the coming of his Son and the dawning of his Kingdom? Do I spread that Good News to those in need, banishing their demons and ills? Christ has no hands, no feet, no voice but ours. Do we give ourselves over to his service, to share the joy to all?

Reflected by Michael Newhouse

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