Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
(Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26)
St. Ambrose came from an aristocratic Roman family. He went to Milan as the Roman governor of the region. He was so successful that when the episcopacy became vacant, the people nominated him for the ministry -- as a layman! He succeeded beyond expectation. One of his greatest accomplishments was securing a right relationship between church and state. He recognized the authority of the state in matters of public welfare. But he insisted that governments carry out their responsibilities morally if they were to have church support. When the Roman emperor had civilians murdered, Ambrose forbade him enter his cathedral. Only after doing the requisite penance was the emperor allowed to worship with the bishop.
Ambrose’s determination is reflected in today’s first reading. Isaiah exhorts Judah to resist evil. He encourages the people to be strong first by promising God’s assistance. Then he holds out the hope of a better world. He does not speak of a more equitable distribution of resources but of concrete blessings. He says the broken will be made whole and the wasteland converted into a highway.
The United States and, in some sense, the world is now preparing for new leadership. We hope that President-elect Biden will follow a moral design for a strong society. We pray that his tenure will be marked by human development and mutual respect among people and nations. May he follow St. Ambrose’s regard for both the moral and spiritual sensibility of civic governance.