“Let me be given to the wild beasts, for by their means I can attain to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may be like pure bread” (Ignatius of Antioch).
Ignatius, a second-century bishop of Antioch, is commemorated in several traditional churches on October 17.
Ignatius was an early bishop of Antioch who was killed in the Roman arena around 107 AD (some historians believe it was later, perhaps around 140 AD). We do not know if he ever met any of the apostles. It is possible: He wrote a letter to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who had been a student of St. John. So, he lived early enough to have met or learned from one of the men who wrote the New Testament.
Most of what we know about Ignatius is from the last few months of his life. He wrote several influential letters while being transported to Rome, where he would be executed in the Coliseum. Although facing death, he did not give in to discouragement.
One of the last things he said, while being taken to his execution, was “Now do I begin to be a disciple of my Master, Christ.” Suffering—even torture or death—would not discourage him. He saw it as a vital part of being a disciple of Jesus.
How do we handle hardship? The last seven months have been difficult for most Americans. Many have lost jobs. Most have experienced isolation. Some have suffered severe illness. Many have lost loved ones. Have we complained, grown bitter, or struggled in our faith?
Or, have we seen it as an opportunity to grow as disciples of Jesus? The early Christians took Jesus’ words seriously:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24–26, New American Standard Bible).
Jesus calls His disciples to value His kingdom above this world. They sought to glorify Him rather than seek rewards, comfort, and pleasure in this world.
We have been through difficult times, but we have not been thrown to the lions. Actually, some of us have complained like spoiled children when told to wear a mask in a public place, as if that was painful suffering. We have had opportunities for meditation, self-examination, and reflection. We have had time to look at our lives, spend more time praying, study Scripture more, and so on. Have we sought God in our circumstances, or have we ignored Him? Have we avoided Him? Have we put our own comfort ahead of His will?
Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.