Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
Ignatius of Antioch was the bishop of Antioch in Syria in the late first century. During the reign of Emperor Trajan, he was taken under Roman guard and forced as an elderly man to walk to Rome. During his journey to Rome he wrote seven letters of encouragement to the Christian communities along the way. These letters are a beautiful way of looking at the fledging Church as it suffered from persecution and constant attacks from various groups such as the Judaizers or Docetists. Such encouragement comes along the lines of, “Turn a deaf ear to any speaker who avoids mention of Jesus Christ who was of David’s line, born of Mary, who was truly born, ate and drank; was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, truly crucified and died while those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth beheld it; who also was truly raised from the dead, the Father having raised him, who in like manner will raise us also who believe in him—his Father, I say, life will raise us in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not true life” (Letter to the Trallians).
This bishop knew his journey to Rome would be his “Road to Calvary.” However, he was not afraid of those who could only kill the body (Luke 12:4) because they could never take away his belief in Jesus. In Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Romans, he boldly stated, “Let me be given to the wild beasts, for by their means I can attain God. I am God’s wheat and I am being ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may appear as pure bread.” Given this man’s acceptance of the stark reality that the Christian life may cost the person his or her life, let us seek courage from the Gospel. Do not be afraid. For even the sparrows do not escape the notice of God and you are worth more than many sparrows (Luke 12:6-7).