Rejoice in the Lord Always – Ambrose

Beloved brethren, you have heard in the present reading how St Paul says I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord. For the salvation of our souls God in his goodness calls us to the joys of everlasting blessedness. The joys of this world lead to eternal sorrow; but those who persevere in following the joys that are to be found in the will of the Lord will find themselves led to an enduring, an eternal world. So St Paul says again, I repeat, what I want is your happiness.

He is urging us to grow in the joy that leads to God and to the fulfillment of God’s commandments. The more we strive to obey the precepts of our Lord God in this world, the more blessed we shall be in the life to come and the greater will be the glory that we receive in God’s presence.

Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: that is, the holiness of your behavior should not only be clear to God but also to men. It should be an example of modesty and self-discipline to all who share this earth with you. It should leave nothing but good memories, both for God and for man.

The Lord is very near, there is no need to worry: the Lord is always near to anyone who calls on him in truth, with right faith, with firm hope, with perfect love. He himself knows what you need before you ask it of him: he is always ready to give his faithful servants whatever help they need. When bad things happen to us we should not be greatly worried, because we should know that we have God close to us as our defender. The Lord is close to those with contrite hearts; those with a broken spirit he will save. Many are the tribulations of the just; the Lord will free them of all their troubles. If we fight to fulfill and keep his precepts, he will not be slow to give us the aid he has promised.

If there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving: when we are afflicted with tribulations let us not bear them sadly or grumble about them – certainly not! – but let us be patient and cheerful, giving thanks to God always, in all circumstances.

St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose of Milan’s life (Sant Ambroggio de Milano in Italian) is a particularly fascinating story. St. Ambrose was born around 339 in what is now Trier, Germany, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul. Following his father’s footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy. When the episcopal see of Milan became vacant in 374, the people demanded that Saint Ambrose be made their bishop. The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first deacon, then priest, then bishop, all in a single week! This politician-turned churchman was profoundly aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture. His deep spirituality and love of God’s Word married together with the oratorical skill acquired in law and politics made St. Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church. St. Ambrose proved to be a fierce opponent of heresy, paganism, and hypocrisy. He battled to preserve the independence of the Church from the state and courageously excommunicated the powerful Catholic Emperor Theodosius I for a massacre of innocent civilians in Thessalonica. St. Ambrose also had a significant impact on sacred music through the composition of hymns and psalm tones that are known to this day as Ambrosian chant. Besides numerous sermons and treatises on the spiritual life, Saint Ambrose is responsible for two of the first great theological works written in Latin, De Sacramentis on the Sacraments and De Spiritu Sancto on the Holy Spirit. Around 385, an ambitious professor of public speaking named Augustine came to hear Saint Ambrose preach in order to study his technique, and in the process, was attracted to the Catholic faith. In 386 Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose and went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Ambrose and his pupil, Augustine, together with St. Jerome and St. Gregory the Great, make up the four original Doctors of the Latin Church. Saint Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan, died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD. His feastday in the Roman calendar is December 7, the day he was ordained bishop. From the Roman liturgy for the Feast of St. Ambrose: “Lord, you made Saint Ambrose an outstanding teacher of the Catholic faith and gave him the courage of an apostle. Raise up iin your Church more leaders after your own heart, to guide us with courage and wisdom. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.”  (bio by Dr. Italy)