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J.D. Long GarcíaDecember 07, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Find the readings here.

“He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down…It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor.”

I know a family at our parish that doesn’t exchange gifts at Christmas. I have to confess that the first time I heard about it, I thought it was crazy. “Those poor kids,” I thought. Instead, they celebrate by throwing a big party. Their house is one of the stops in their neighborhood’s annual Posadas celebrations, held the nine nights leading up to Christmas.

There are nine huge parties, ending on Dec. 24. Neighbors pack the hosting family’s house and backyard. They have piñatas and mariachis and all of the traditional Mexican culinary delights—like tamales, pozole, champurrado. (Yum.)

The family at my church isn’t poor. They just choose to celebrate without gifts. Every time I go shopping for Christmas gifts—often desperate for ideas for tough-to-shop-for family members—I think of these neighborhood celebrations. And I want to move to that neighborhood. What a gift it would be to be liberated from rote gift-giving.

I suspect my family will continue to exchange gifts. But readings like today’s can help me give in to the right spirit, giving thanks for God’s goodness and mercy.

Today, on the 1,649th anniversary of St. Ambrose’s ordination as bishop of Milan, I am mindful that gift-giving must include the poor and marginalized. After his ordination, St. Ambrose gave all he had to the poor. Of almsgiving, St. Ambrose said, “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his…. The earth belongs to everyone, not the rich.”

Like me, you might be a little bored with sayings like “Keep Christ in Christmas” or “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I believe those sayings are true, no doubt. But I nevertheless often find myself caught up in Yuletide trivialities.

I don’t want to do that anymore. Instead, I want to be like that wise man Jesus talks about who built his house on rock. I want to be like the family I know at church that doesn’t give gifts but instead celebrates the coming of Jesus with neighborhood celebrations. I want to be like St. Ambrose.

I suspect my family will continue to exchange gifts. But readings like today’s can help me give in to the right spirit, giving thanks for God’s goodness and mercy.

More: Scripture

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