Today is the memorial of St. Ambrose (d. 397). You might not have heard of him, but he was an important defender of the Christian faith in a time of widespread heresy. He was elected to be bishop before he was even baptized because of his peacemaking capabilities between the heretical groups and the Christian Church. Ambrose’s memorial falls happily and coincidentally during the second week of Advent, which focuses on peace.
St. Ambrose sets an example for us this Advent season through his total dedication to the poor. During Christmastime, we are so full of love and joy, and feel more inclined to donate our time and funds. However, our charity should not stop with Christmas, and it should not stop with our excess. St. Ambrose once said, “God created the universe in such a manner that all in common might derive their food from it, and that the earth should also be a property common to all. Why do you reject one who has the same rights over nature as you? It is not from your own goods that you give to the beggar; it is a portion of his own that you are restoring to him. The earth belongs to all. So you are paying back a debt and think you are making a gift to which you are not bound” (found on catholic.org)
St. Ambrose reminds us that our property is not truly our own, but rather our goods are to be used to promote the common good. The common good is the sum total of the conditions that allow each human being and group of people to flourish and reach their full potential (see the Church document Gaudium et Spes for more information). When we are making purchases and telling people what we want for Christmas this year, perhaps we should consider whether or not our money might be better spent elsewhere. How can we promote the common good? How can we pay back our debts to those in need? Another material good is a fleeting pleasure–so what can I do that will bring lasting happiness to myself and others? These are helpful questions to be asking ourselves on a daily basis so that we can move forward and bring about the Kingdom of God.
Penitential Prayer of St. Ambrose of Milan
O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ’s sake, Amen
(taken from Catholic.org)
Reading 1: IS 35:1-10
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
Responsorial Psalm: PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14
R. (Isaiah 35:4f) Our God will come to save us!
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Our God will come to save us!
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Our God will come to save us!
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Our God will come to save us!
Gospel: LK 5:17-26
One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”
Today, let us reflect on how God brings us peace in this short clip about Advent.
For an additional ten family activities, try this list:
*Schedule a date for a family visit to a local nursing home —not now, but in February or March when Christmas is a memory.
*Buy a family’s worth of gloves and hats, then give them away to a family in need.
*Invite someone who lives alone to join you for a special Advent or Christmas meal.
*Select a cause or charity you would like to support as a family in the coming year and decide how to include it into your budget.
*Think of a no-cost, “invisible” present (story, joke, favor, hug) you can give to a family member or friend and share it today.
*Clean house together in preparation for putting up your Christmas tree and decorations.
*Sing a favorite Christmas song together.
*Make an ornament for your family Christmas tree.
*Offer a prayer of thanks for someone who went out of their way to make your day better.
*Look at everything your family does to prepare for Christmas and how you share these tasks. Redistribute the responsibilities so that no one feels overburdened.
O God, You give blessed Ambrose to Your people as a minister of eternal salvation; grant, we pray You, that as on earth he was a teacher of supernatural life, so we may deserve to have him as our intercessor in heaven. Amen.