Today we remember Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and Martyr.
“Yet whatever gains I had,
these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.
More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.
(Philippians 3 verses 7-8a)
Born in Syria, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became bishop of Antioch. In the year 107AD, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to choose between death and apostasy. Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome. Ignatius is known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from Antioch to Rome. Five were to the churches in Asia Minor urging the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors and to hold firmly to the Christian Faith. The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith and the final letter begged the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom:
“The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”
Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus where he was martyred. His great concern was for the unity, faithfulness and order of the Church and he was willing to suffer martyrdom rather than deny his Lord Jesus Christ. He did not draw attention to his own suffering, but to the love of God which strengthened him. He knew the price of commitment and did not deny Christ, even to save his own life. His life is a challenge to us to work for unity in God’s Church and to serve Jesus wholeheartedly.