Him I Seek. Him I Love.

Homily for the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch

Whenever I hear a scripture passage like the one we have this morning from the Gospel of Luke, it always makes me pause and think about my life and reflect on how I am living my life as a disciple of the Lord. I think it should make all of us think about those things.

Are we doing the right things? Are we living our lives as Jesus taught us to live? Are we taking our call to discipleship seriously? And, if we’re honest with ourselves, I think each of us would see that the answer to those questions may not always be “yes.” For each of us, there is always something that we can work on. There is always area in our lives where we could do better.

It’s good to sometimes pause and think about our priorities, whether we are focusing our energies on the right things. Yes, it’s important to focus time and energy on our responsibilities with our jobs, our families, etc. BUT we should also be making sure that we give our relationship with the Lord the time and energy that it deserves. Because, as this Gospel reminds us, one day our lives will be demanded of us and when we get to the other side of Heaven, we want to make sure that the Lord says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” rather than “I do not know you.” That’s what this is all about.

I think our saint for the day, St. Ignatius of Antioch, is a great example of an individual who understood this call of the Lord to store up treasures in heaven and to strive to make Christ’s name known in the world.

St. Ignatius, also known as Theophorus, was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist and was consecrated a bishop by St. Peter for the Church in Antioch. Throughout his time as a bishop, he always sought to instruct his people on how to live as faithful disciples of Jesus and focused much of his efforts on ensuring that Christians were following correct teachings about Jesus. And he gave witness to how to be that faithful disciple of Jesus when it mattered the most.

During the reign of Emperor Trajan, Ignatius was arrested and sentenced to death for failing to renounce his Christian faith. He was forced to travel from Antioch (modern-day Syria) to Rome to be devoured by wild beasts in a public display of what happens to those who refuse to worship the pagan gods of Rome. During that journey from Antioch to Rome, Ignatius used the time to write letters of encouragement to the Christian communities that he encountered along the way. In one of those letters, Ignatius wrote this:

“I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becoming his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs – let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us.”

Talk about storing up treasure in heaven! None of us here are probably ever going to be asked to be martyrs for our faith. However, we are called to be disciples of Jesus in a way that is unique to us. If we are taking that discipleship seriously, it will be evident by the fruit that it bears. For Ignatius, it resulted in many being converted to faith in Jesus and for many Christians persevering in the struggles they faced.

What is the fruit of our discipleship? If our lives were to be demanded of us today, would we have treasure stored up in Heaven? Would the Lord know who we were when we stood in front of Him? May we reflect on those questions today and recommit ourselves to being the disciples that the Lord has called us to be.

Image: Ignatius of Antioch. Public domain. Wikicommons.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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