Saturday, October 17, 2009


“Madonna and Child with
St Ignatius of Antioch
and St Onophrius”
(detail) by Lorenzo Lotto, 1508


Biographical Information about St. Ignatius of Antioch [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch

Readings and Commentary:

Philippians 3:17-- 4:1

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their "shame."
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified Body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.

Commentary on
Phil 3:17-- 4:1

In the first part of the reading St. Paul exhorts the community to imitate him and those who act in accord with his teaching. He goes on to identify those who “…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.” They do so by focusing their efforts on themselves (their stomach, their glory, earthly things).

The second part of the reading is the promise to the faithful members of the community. The promise is that, in the end, they will be conformed to Christ in spirit and body.

CCC: Phil 3:16-17 1156, 2633; Phil 3:18-21 2204; Phil 3:20 2217; Phil 3:21 2286
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

R. The LORD delivered me from all my fears.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

R. The LORD set me free from all my fears.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

R. The LORD delivered me from all my fears.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

R. The LORD delivered me from all my fears.
Commentary on
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving and a favorite for celebrating the heroic virtue of the saints. The psalmist, fresh from the experience of being rescued (Psalm 34:5, 7), can teach the "poor," those who are defenseless, to trust in God alone. This psalm, in the words of one being unjustly persecuted, echoes hope for deliverance and freedom.

CCC: Ps 34:3 716; Ps 34:8 336

John 12:24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me."

Commentary on
Jn 12:24-26

St. John’s passage, given here, is foundational to our understanding of the Pascal Mystery. Using the analogy of the grain of wheat, the Lord invites us to his own sacrifice, out of that wheat comes the Eucharistic Sacrifice and into that death, through Baptism, we are invited to share the salvation that comes from following Christ in life and death. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr, clearly did both.

CCC: Jn 12:24 2731

We celebrate today the feast of one of the early Saints (martyred in 107 AD). He truly followed the Lord in cardinal ways. He was betrayed by one of his own; it is said he was denounced by one of the members of his own faith community. He was cruelly treated by his captors; according to references in his letters he referred to the guards who transported him to Rome as “Ten Leopards” who responded to kindness with hatred. During his ordeal he wrote several letters to various churches exalting the Lord and faithfully guiding the flock. His ordeal culminated in being martyred by wild beasts for the amusement of the crowds in the arena in Rome.

From another of his letters we hear the following account of his faith as he was going to his death:

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that
I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my
way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness.
Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to
God. I am God's wheat and shall be ground by their teeth
so that I may become Christ's pure bread. Pray to Christ
for me that the animals will be the means of making me
a sacrificial victim for God. -St. Ignatius of Antioch

What we take away from his life is a lived response to what St. John’s Gospel records as part of Jesus teaching. Referring to himself he tells us that “…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;” In dying to this life, faithful to the last, St. Ignatius followed Christ’s example and word. Like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground, he as, we believe, already achieved what we hope for – rebirth to eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Today as we recall the life and death of St. Ignatius of Antioch, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb, we ask for his prayers for us; that we might remain faithful to Christ in the face of opposition and that our witness to that faith might bring others to do the same.


[1] The picture is “Madonna and Child with St Ignatius of Antioch and St Onophrius” (detail) by Lorenzo Lotto, 1508
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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