Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr – Readings

Commentary on Philippians 3:17 – 4:1; Psalm 33; John 12:24-26

The Gospel reading comes from John. In verses immediately preceding our reading, we are told that among those who were going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover were “some Greeks”, referring to Gentile converts to Judaism. They approached the Apostle Philip (whose name was Greek) and said they wanted to “see Jesus”. Philip in turn went to tell his fellow-Apostle Andrew (another Greek name) and together they went to Jesus with the request.

Jesus gave them a very enigmatic answer:

…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.

Jesus goes on to clarify somewhat his meaning:

Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The meaning is clear enough for us now. The Greeks had asked to “see” Jesus. Presumably that is all they wanted – to lay their eyes on the man about whom they probably had heard so much. For Jesus, though, it is not enough just to see him externally. To “see Jesus” is to know and understand and totally accept his Way. And Jesus is a person who is ready to set aside his present life in this world for a life that will never end.

Jesus then goes on to say:

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.

In other words, the followers of Jesus must be ready to offer up their lives too. Is this what the Greeks mean in wanting to see Jesus?

Ignatius, for his part, shared totally the mind of Jesus and did not hesitate to sacrifice his life in this world for a better one. He, too, compared himself to a grain of wheat which would be ground by the teeth of wild beasts so that he might become the pure bread of Christ.

The First Reading is from the Letter of Paul to the Philippians. Part of this passage is also used on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Paul prays, that for the Philippians, Christ may live in them through faith and that an outreaching love (agape) be the foundation of their life.

Only then will they be able to have:

…the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:18-19)

With that love, we can never go wrong. For as is said, “Wherever there is love (agape), God is there”. Or, in the words of St Augustine, “Love (agape) and do what you like.”

It was this unconditional, outreaching love that governed the life of Ignatius. And one can hear him speaking to us in the words of Paul:

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called… (Eph 4:1)

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