Homily for Memorial of Saint Ambrose
“Without cost you have received. Without cost you are to give.”
These words come to us in a season of gift-receiving and gift-giving, with Christmas just two and a half weeks away now.
It might be helpful, therefore, to reflect on THE GREATEST gift-giver the world has ever known: Mary, our Mother.
What gift does the Blessed Mother give? She gives Jesus, without cost.
Bl. James Alberione once wrote a prayer that says: “Mary, you gave the world the book to read: The Eternal Word of God.” I think that’s the heart of all our Advent preparation: It’s the profound mystery that Mary was and still is God’s chosen instrument who gives us Jesus.
The only reason Mary is the greatest gift-giver, though, is that she is an even better gift-receiver. Mary, more than anyone else, embodies the phrase: “Without cost you have received.” She is the lowly handmaiden of the Lord! There’s nothing impressive about her at all. To the world, she’s laughably insignificant, poor, empty, foolish even. And yet, as the Church will celebrate this Monday, Mary was freely given, from the moment of her conception, an absolutely unique gift of grace: She is the immaculate one — Free of original sin! The spotless vessel prepared for God-incarnate, the New Ark of the Covenant. “Without cost she has received.”
At the Annunciation, again she shows us out to receive without cost. The angel Gabriel interrupts her life and says she will be the mother of the Savior — In response, Mary gives the fullest permission possible: Yes, I will receive without cost! Do with me whatever You will! And the Word was made flesh within her.
Without cost, she received Elizabeth’s joyful cry: “Blessed are you among women!” Without cost, she received the Shepherds and the Magi who came one by one to adore her newborn son. Without cost, she pondered in her heart all the mysteries God entrusted to her over and over again throughout her life. Without cost, she received the bewildering words and actions of her son as he carried out his public ministry. Without cost, she received the Beloved Disciple as her own son, standing at the foot of the Cross.
So much grace was given to Mary! She is indeed FULL of grace! All of it was received without cost in trustful surrender to God! Only after receiving so much without cost could Mary then turn around and give Jesus to the world without cost.
Like Mary, the saint we celebrate today, St Ambrose of Milan, spent his life giving Jesus away, too. Most notably, he gave Christ to St. Augustine through his powerful preaching of the Word and his great example of holiness. How poor our Church would be if Ambrose had not given Jesus to Augustine without cost! How poor our Church will be if we fail to give Jesus to our friends and family without cost!
As we receive the Eucharist today — without cost! — may we learn to imitate Mary in constantly giving Jesus Christ away without cost. May we go out to the lost sheep, full of compassion, and give them what their hearts desire most: the Word made flesh.