I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more. (Lk 12:4)
St. Ignatius of Antioch, whose memorial we celebrate today, was a bishop and martyr in the very early Church. (He was martyred in the year 107.) A disciple of St. John, Ignatius was consecrated a bishop around the year 69 by St. Peter. Ignatius spent an enormous amount of time and energy preserving the correct teaching of the faith and encouraging the correct practice of the faith among the Christians.
Ignatius ran into trouble in 107 because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. The choice for the early Christians was quite simple: renounce the faith and live or embrace the faith and be put to death. Ignatius stated that he “would rather die for Christ than rule the whole earth.” His followers were quite upset. They wanted him to do all that he could to free himself so that he could continue to lead them.
Ignatius, instead, encouraged them to listen to their bishops at all times because the bishops were the successors of the Apostles. Knowing that he would suffer cruel sport at the hands of the enemy, he wrote a letter to his people, “Permit me to imitate my suffering God. I am God’s wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” Shortly after writing that letter from his prison cell, he died a martyr’s death, being killed and devoured by two lions.
Such cruelty was a sport of the time. Sadly, such cruelty exists, still, today. There are many people whose lives are in jeopardy because they claim to be Christians. The world in which we live is a sinful world. The devil prowls this world on a regular basis doing everything that he can to steal souls from God. Those who live the faith are assailed on a regular basis. They live in terror and dread with little hope for safety.
Yet they cling to the faith because they realize that this world is not their final destination. They know that the Kingdom of Heaven is their ultimate goal and that anything that happens to them here on earth cannot get in the way of the Lord. As the great saints of old, the blood of the martyrs is still the seed of Christians. We pray for those whose lives are in jeopardy because they believe in God and we hope that the example of their lives — and deaths — will inspire us to renew our trust in the Lord.
FAITH ACTION: Pray for all those who suffer for the faith and for all those who will be killed for the faith today.