Monday, October 16, and Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Romans 1:1-7; Luke 11:29-32)

In today’s first reading Paul from the Letter to the Romans calls himself “a slave of Christ.”  He does not mean that Christ forces him to do things against his will, quite the contrary.  Christ has freed him to act according to what his will most deeply desires. He writes further along in the letter of his former sinful condition, “For I do not the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (7:15).  Then he reports of being freed through faith in Christ.

The evil that Paul refers to is largely covetousness.  Humans want what does not belong to them.  It may be riches but as often as not it is illicit sexual pleasure.  Certainly one of the most confessed sins today is viewing pornography.  Viewing lascivious images depersonalizes sex and turns eros into individual gratification.

We are wise to turn to Christ when we are tempted by covetousness.  He enlightens the darkness of our hearts so that we can see clearly what is good for us.  He will give us the temperance to control our animal desires.  He will not treat us as slaves, but as younger sisters and brothers whom he wants to flourish in goodness and happiness.

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

(Romans 1:16-25; Luke 11:37-41)

In the early 1990s an American Dominican priest working among the poor in El Salvador began to receive death threats.  Determining them to be credible, the priest’s superior called him back to the United States.  No doubt, the priest returned with a divided heart.  He would have preferred to stay with his people, but such persistence might have cost his life.  St. Ignatius of Antioch evidently had a different perspective on a similar situation.

From the letters he wrote as he traveled from Antioch to his execution in Rome, we know that Ignatius looked forward to being martyred.  When it seemed that Christians might find a way to have the penalty commuted, Ignatius pleaded with them not to do so.  He evidently wanted to be eaten alive by lions.  It is not sacrilegious to ask whether his outlook may be in part pathological.

But Ignatius also knew the corruption in many pagan hearts.  To this Paul testifies in today’s first reading.  Pagans, Paul writes, abandon their consciences differentiating right from wrong to follow the whims of their hearts represented by idols.  By dying as a martyr, Ignatius witnesses to the truth that God has created us to be just and holy as He is.  He does not tarry in professing his faith because he knows that God will reward him soon.