Thursday, October 17, 2019

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

(Romans 3:21-30; Luke 11:47-54)

St. Ignatius of Antioch plays a pivotal role in Church history.  He was born in apostolic times and may have been a disciple of John.  There is also a legend that he was consecrated a bishop by Saints Peter and Paul.  As bishop, he was captured during the reign of the emperor Trajan and sent to Rome for execution.  On the journey he dictated seven letters which feature a developed theology of Church.  He also expresses an ardent desire to give his life as a martyr.  Upon arrival in Rome he was not disappointed.  He was sent directly to the hungry lions in the amphitheater.

Today’s gospel anticipates martyrdom of men like Antioch.  Jesus is castigating the Pharisees and scholars of the law for hypocrisy.  He links the persecution of the prophets of the Old Testament with the martyrdom of apostles in the New.  As a bishop, Ignatius was a successor to the apostles and certainly shared their fate.

The testimony which martyrs have given should support our faith.  They do not deny Christ as Lord even to save their lives.  We can arrest our doubts which arise in this secular age.  It is true that Jesus arose from the dead.  Attaching ourselves to him by faith, as Paul urges in today’s reading, we share in his eternal life.