REMEMBERING SAINT AMBROSE
"When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31)
Today is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The next day - December 8, 1941 - the U.S. officially entered World War II. It is a day we should remember, and I would say that most Americans remember December 7 as “Pearl Harbor Day.”
Today is also the 1,643rd anniversary of Ambrose being consecrated as Bishop of Milan. Our church’s patron saint, Ambrose, was a governor in northern Italy when he went in to mediate a dispute - what, a conflict in the church? - between factions of Arians and orthodox Christians, over who the next Bishop of Milan would be. Some suggest that a young person first yelled out, “Ambrose shall be our bishop!” Whether that is true or not, the people who had gathered insisted that Ambrose should be the next bishop. Ambrose protested at first. Then Ambrose, who had been a catechumen - doing the studies that were required before one professed faith in Christ - was hastily baptized, ordained, and then made a bishop on December 7, 373, all in a week’s time. (One would think this must be the fastest ordination process in the history of the Church!)
Over the next 24 years, Ambrose became a gifted preacher (his preaching was an important influence in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo), wrote a number of hymns and introduced antiphonal chanting to the liturgy, and forced the emperor, Theodosius, to do public penance for the slaughter of several thousand citizens of Salonika.
It makes sense, then, that Acts 4:23-31 would be selected as one of the readings for St. Ambrose Day. This is the story of Peter, John, and the newly formed Christian community speaking boldly about Jesus and the resurrection, being arrested and then released after being told by the Jewish religious authorities to no longer speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), and then praying to the Lord for more boldness in speaking out. After praying, the building in which they were staying shook, and Peter and John and the others continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Ambrose’s bold teaching and preaching reached all the way to the Roman emperor.
I will leave you with a few questions:
When have you thought that you were not the right person for the job (perhaps you didn’t think you were qualified), but circumstances came together in such a way that you relented, and did the job anyway? What was the fruit of you saying “yes” to that work?
When was the last time you prayed to the Lord for the power to speak God’s word with boldness?
When was the last time that you prayed and were shaken by the Lord’s response?
How might you speak boldly - on the Lord’s behalf - today?
Remember Pearl Harbor on this day, and all those who lost their lives. Remember, also, the saint from Milan - Ambrose.