+ Today we celebrate the feast of a remarkable man and servant of God. Ambrose of Milan was born of Roman nobility in Trier in 397, (two of his brothers were also saints: Marcellina and Satyrus). He was educated in the classics at Rome. He was a poet and a noted orator, 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 and impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. His resistance, causing more violence, led to his assent, and on December 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.
Ambrose became a noted preacher and teacher, a Scripture scholar of renown, and a 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. 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. He died on Holy Saturday, April 4, 397 at Milan, Italy, of natural causes.
In the gospel passage today Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd, who would live and die for the welfare of the sheep of his flock; this very much characterized the life and ministry of one of the greatest bishops of the Church, Ambrose of Milan. He did everything he did for them and for their salvation; as did Jesus. St. Paul in the first reading reminds us how important it is for any and all of us to be open to the grace of God as it tries to communicate to us and through us the very reality and power of God in our lives, giving us boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in him to the very mysteries of God. We are so very blessed; may we live like we deeply appreciate these blessings this day!
For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.