OCTOBER 17, 2012 - SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH

LUKE 11:42-46

St. Ignatius of Antioch

As we have just heard, Jesus could be bluntly, even aggressively critical when he decided that gentle meekness had become ineffectual in treating with those who had already formed their own selfishly rigid views on God's ways.  Such inflexible attachment results from a lack of love that encases a person in a sterile confinement.  When duty replaces love instead of being guided by love's concern for the welfare of others, it leads to inhuman demands.  "Woe to you Pharisees! You pay no attention to judgment and to the love of God."  Earlier in his mission our Lord had clearly shown that his preferred and spontaneous manner was affable and winning so that well disposed persons were readily attracted to him.   When he experienced such ready responsiveness Jesus did not hesitate to invite persons of very different personality and background to open their hearts to him, even to the extent of leaving their possessions and families so as to join in his mission.   People who displayed a simplicity of character and a sincerity of disposition held a strong appeal for him, and were themselves, deeply responsive to the respectful friendliness he showed them.   There always remained a decided sense that, he possessed a striking dignity of person that made; even his closest associates treat him with a respect that avoided any presumptuous familiarity.

Today we commemorate an appealing figure who displayed an extraordinarily intense love for the person of Jesus.   He manifested his attachment to him by fidelity to his duty as a bishop for the welfare of those fellow Christians for whom he was eager to supply encouragement.   He demonstrated his loving concern by providing advice through a series of letters intended to strengthen them in a time of various trials of faith.   He did so with a human feeling that was sufficiently firm and fervent that he thought of their various needs even while he was under arrest and likely to be put to death.   Ignatius so lived in loving faith in the Lord Jesus that his one desire was to serve those who adhered to Christ and to hasten to meet his Savior through the suffering and death that were awaiting him in Rome.

As we honor his person at this altar we are reminded that in thanking God at this Eucharist we are following the example of this ardent priest.   On his way to martyrdom at the capital, he writes a number of times of the sacrament of the altar, urging, for example, the Ephesians to the same act of worshipful devotion that we ourselves share in by way of honoring his memory.  His words are as encouraging to us here as they were in the year 107 AD to the Ephesians community: "Be eager to come together frequently for God's Eucharist to give Him glory."(Ephesians 13.1)


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger