"I will glory not because I am righteous but because I am redeemed; I will glory not because I am free from sins but because my sins are forgiven me. I will not glory because I have done good nor because someone has done good to me but because Christ is my advocate with the Father and because the blood of Christ has been shed for me." St. Ambrose
Advent Reflection for December 7, Memorial of St. Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church
Today is the memorial for St. Ambrose, a bishop and doctor of the Church. You can read more about him at that link, but one of the things that Ambrose is most known for is his participation in the conversion of St. Augustine.
Indulge me if you will and think about the conversion of St. Augustine for a moment and look at today's Gospel from Matthew. It struck me as I was wondering and praying about what I might possibly write about today, that the story of the shepherd seeking out that lost sheep is very much the story of St. Ambrose. And potentially the story of all of us. We are at different times the shepherd and the sheep. Jesus is the one who never changes and is never lost.
It is very easy to get into the trap of how we can make ourselves more holy, how we can do all that we need to do in order to get ourselves back into the sheepfold, how to get saved. It is not that we have nothing to do with this - but it is not about us, is it?
Does the lost sheep say, "Wow, where is my GPS when I need it? I am totally lost!" No, the sheep is lost and it is the shepherd who comes to do the heavy lifting. We are lost and it is Jesus who comes seeking us. Our work in the equation - we are invited to respond.
Like the sheep, we could go on grazing and looking away. Like St. Augustine, when he was a wild man did! However, the shepherd came in the form of St. Ambrose, who was preaching and one day, Augustine must have finally turned his attention to this call.
A lost sheep was on its way to being found.
So it is with us. We can choose to respond or not, that is up to us. If we are lost however, Jesus our Shepherd keeps seeking us. It is not a matter of us praying our way in and making ourselves holy - that is the work of the narcissistic, thinking that we ourselves have done it all. This happens all the time and with the best of intentions. I could fill pages with my own (gulp) shameful examples. Can't we all?
If we reflect upon today's Gospel and we consider St. Ambrose and his words that opened this post, we might be called to remember who is lost and who does the finding.