7 Dec – Memorial of St Ambrose
The OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
Born to the Roman nobility. Brother of Saint Marcellina and Saint Satyrus. Educated in the classics, Greek, and philosophy at Rome, Italy. Poet and noted orator. Convert to Christianity. 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 to prevent further violence, he assented, and on 7 December 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.
Noted preacher and teacher, a Bible student of renown, and writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arians. His preaching helped convert Saint Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins. He called and chaired several theological councils during his time as bishop, many devoted to fighting heresy. Welcomed Saint Ursus and Saint Alban of Mainz when they fled Naxos to escape Arian persecution, and then sent them on to evangelize in Gaul and Germany. 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.
I, who am less than the least of all the saints, have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.
‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.’
I know my own and my own know me
In the school I am teaching in, I am one of two leaders in my department, which comprises close to twenty teachers. Before I started in this role, I asked a couple of department heads in other schools for advice, and they told me that it is important for the leader to care for their subordinates, and to show that they do. Once that is established, people will listen to the leader and do what they are asked to do. After half a year on the job, I know that to be very true.
The shepherd analogy of leadership is an interesting one. Besides leading them to specific grazing spots, the shepherd does not control what the sheep do, but he always has an eye on them in case any sheep strays away from the flock. A good shepherd’s heart is with his sheep constantly, and Jesus says that he is the good shepherd, the one who truly cares for every member of his flock. He is not a puppet master or vengeful lord, but a loving guide and savior who will bring us back to the flock when we stray.
As members of Christ’s body, we are all called to be king, prophet and priest. These are all leadership roles. Many of us shy away from taking on such roles, but even if it is not done in an official capacity, we are all called to lead others to Christ, through the way we lead our lives, through our words and actions. In our work, do we spare a thought for the feelings or opinions of our subordinates when we assign work to them? How do we treat the cleaners and technicians in our workplace? Do we treat domestic helpers with dignity and respect? The list can go on, and I will summarise with the words of St James – “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (James 1:22)
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray for the heart of a good shepherd in relating to people around us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who truly care about us.