Monday, October 17, 2011

And just who is this saint, Ignatius of Antioch and why does the Church celebrate a day in his honor?  First and foremost, Ignatius is recognized as a man who was born shortly after Jesus was crucified and became a student of St. John, the Apostle.  Some writers believe he was appointed a bishop by St. Peter.  Factually, however, we do know from historical documents that after his final journey from Antioch to Rome, Ignatius became a prisoner during the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan.  He was sentenced to death in the Colosseum.  History learned much from several of his letters written during his final journey to Rome.  From these letter s we know that he was a man, a priest, a bishop who possessed a strong devotion to the crucified Lord Jesus.  In his writings he speaks clearly and with great devotion to the divinity and the resurrection from the dead.  For him the Eucharist was a means for the Christian communities to join with each other in unity of faith and in collaboration with the local bishop.  Ignatius writes about the Church of Rome being founded by Peter and Paul.  His commitment to the faith and to Jesus Christ brought him to his martyrdom between the years 107-110.

Naturally the liturgists present a reading from the gospel of Ignatius' teacher, St. John.  If you read the entire pericope, Jn 12:20-24, you can better understand what Jesus is speaking about when he presents the  story of the grain of wheat has to first die and then fall into the ground for it to become the wheat to make the bread.  In the earlier verses we read about "some Greeks" who wanted to "see" Jesus.  Now the people called "Greeks" at this time were Gentiles who had become Jews.  These people approached the apostle Philip ask to "see" this Jesus person  Philip then approached his colleague, Andrew, about the matter.  Apparently the two apostles then asked Jesus for an opportunity for these "Greeks" to meet Jesus.

It seems that Jesus' answer to the apostles did lack any enthusiasm about such a meeting.  He perceived that the desire to "see" him was simply what most people say when then might be the possibility of meeting a "newsworthy character."  For Jesus "to see" would mean much more than a handshake and the usual "it's a pleasure to meet you." For Jesus to "to see him" is to come to know him and to accept the way of life that he had been teaching in his ministry.  His response to the two apostles indicates that the way of life is costly.  To follow Jesus, to accept his ways, could be like the grain of wheat.  Unless it dies and falls into the earth, it does not produce anything.

So, for us the meaning should be clear:  to be a follower of Jesus Christ means that one must be willing to sacrifice even one's life if that should happen ... for the Kingdom of God.  We might ask ourselves this question:  am I ready and willing to make the sacrifices that God may ask of me if I truly wish to follow his Son and to eventually make my way to the Kingdom of God?  Or could it be that I am might be one of those "Greeks"... a person who really wants to be able to say, "Oh, yes, I have met Jesus," and mean little more that a brief encounter?