Today is the memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop, and martyr. As the second bishop of Antioch, he was one of the most prominent Christians of the time immediately succeeding the apostles. Ignatius lived during a tumultuous time as Antioch was the center of difficult religious debates in the early Christian period. As a bishop, Ignatius had to engage with the Ebionites, the Jewish Christian movement that demanded the preservation of Jewish regulations. Ignatius also struggled with the Docetists, who believed Christ only appeared to be human. Later, he was arrested on the charge of “atheism”—denial of the Roman gods—and was taken from Antioch to Rome. The details of Ignatius’s death are not clear, though it was likely that he was cast to the wild beasts.
Ignatius’s goal was to imitate Jesus Christ in death. Ignatius remains faithful to his goal because, as St. Paul said in the first reading, by the grace of God, he has been saved through faith and God has shown the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. The legend says that Ignatius refused the help of Roman Christians who were hoping to free him. It was reported that Ignatius told the Roman Christians that if they wanted to do something for him, they should pray that he would remain faithful to imitate Christ in His death. Can we pray for each other to remain faithful to live our Christian life? We don’t have to pray for martyrdom, but we can at least pray for the courage to be an ambassador of Christ.