7 December, Monday — Call to Repentance

Dec 7 – Memorial for St. Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church

St. Ambrose (c.340–397) was born to the Roman nobility. He was the brother of St. Marcellina and St. Satyrus. He was educated in the classics, Greek, and philosophy at Rome, Italy. He was a poet and a noted orator. He was a convert to Christianity, and governor of Milan, Italy.

When the Bishop of Milan died, a dispute over his replacement led to violence. Ambrose intervened to calm both sides; he impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but he assented to prevent further violence. On Dec 7, 374, he was baptized, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock.

He was a noted preacher and teacher, a Bible student of renown, and writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arianism. His preaching helped convert St. Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins.

During his time as bishop, he also called and chaired several theological councils, many devoted to fighting heresy. He welcomed St. Ursus and St. Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany. He was proclaimed a great Doctor of the Latin Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298.

The title ‘Honey Tongued Doctor’ was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers, chandlers, wax refiners, etc.

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Isa 35:1-10
Lk 5:17-26

‘Courage! Do not be afraid

A friend summed up the year in one word: “Fear” When I asked him why he said so, he shared that he has never seen so many people cower in fear of an invisible bug. Families were divided, economies were negatively affected and there has been a general sentiment of negativity. As I reflected on his words, I cannot help but think that there must have been tremendous fear amongst the Israelites when they were in exile.

The sense of anxiety and uncertainty in living in a foreign land must have weighed heavily upon them. Yet, the Lord offered them words of consolation in today’s first reading. Through the prophet Isaiah, God shares with them comforting words — to remind them that He is watching out for them in their troubles and will provide the necessary assurance for them. This is especially relevant for each one of us living in this present day and age, where there is so much uncertainty in our lives. News outlets and daily conversations often carry news of doom and gloom. I have come to realise that it is love which drives out fear. We need to stay in union with God and sin separates us from this union.

If at all this anxiety has any silver lining, it has to do with the fact that it made me more aware of my own sinfulness and weakness. The Gospel of today sees Jesus healing the paralysed man of his sins. I believe that this must have been astounding for the people there, for they were only concerned with physical healing. Perhaps it is instructive for each one of us during the season of Advent to have an interior examination of our lives. This will allow us to discover what are some of the things which have kept us separate from God. The need to stay home more often has made me more introspective and allowed me to reflect upon what has been hampering me from experiencing the love of God.

As we begin the second week of Advent, the call to repentance is ever present. Let us take a moment away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to examine the plan which God has made for us, and how we can respond in eagerness and happiness towards living a life in union with God.

(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us respond eagerly to your call of repentance and live a life worthy to be called Christian.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who have reminded us of the need to stay faithful to God.


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