Thursday, October 13, 2016

"DO NOT BE AFRAID."


Homily for October 14th, 2016: Luke 12:1-7.

          Twice in this short gospel reading Jesus tells his friends: “Do not be afraid.” These reassuring words do not promise that the Lord’s disciples will be spared suffering. Jesus promises something quite different: that he will be with us in every suffering.

          Next Monday we shall celebrate a man whose life bears witness to fulfillment of this promise: Ignatius of Antioch, in modern day Syria. Thought to have been a convert, he was for forty years the third bishop of that local Church. Arrested in about 105 B.C. by the Roman authorities for the crime of worshiping the God of Jesus Christ, rather than the Emperor of Rome, he was sent there, in chains and under guard, on a ship, sentenced to be thrown to lions in the arena for the amusement of the spectators.

          News of his arrest spread quickly through Christian communities on the ship’s route. Clergy and numerous faithful came to welcome Ignatius at each port of call, seeking the blessing of a man on the way to martyrdom. Others journeyed by land to Rome for the same purpose. During the voyage Ignatius wrote letters, still preserved, to four local Churches encouraging them to remain steadfast in faith. More than once he expressed his concern that well intentioned fellow believers in high places in Rome might intervene to prevent the fate that awaited him. “I fear your charity,” Ignatius wrote. “I shall never have another such opportunity of attaining unto my Lord. … Allow me to be the food of wild beasts through whom I may attain unto God. I am God’s grain and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found the pure bread if Christ.” Ignatius died in the arena at Rome in about 107 A.D.    

         Probably none of us will be a blood martyr to Jesus Christ. Every one of us, however, is called to be a martyr to him in the original sense of the word – which in Greek, martyros, means simply “witness.” We ask God in this Mass for guidance and strength to bear witness to him in daily life, as we pray:

“St. Ignatius, pray for us.”