But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.
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….He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire….Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God….My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing.
—St. Ignatius of Antioch
St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyred in AD 107, was very aware of how fleeting his earthly life truly was. Living in the first century, he experienced the rise of Christianity amidst intense persecution. He saw countless friends and apostles slain for their beliefs. He knew that he was involved with something truly dangerous. But as much as he was aware of the inevitability of death, he also had a firm knowledge of the reality of Heaven. Through the early Church, he was closely connected with those who had known Jesus in the flesh and had seen His Ascension. He had experienced a powerful conversion, and he saw his own life become transformed by the love of God. Looking out upon a world in turmoil, Ignatius understood that any earthly losses he endured did not matter in the long run, and so he did not back down from his Christian beliefs or lay low in an effort to evade cruel persecutors. He walked with his head held high into the Colosseum, where lions waited to devour him.
The persecutions we face today do not take the form of hungry lions, and yet we still cower from them, afraid of how we will be treated as Christians. Jesus warned us that the world will always be hostile toward Christians—if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us, too. But St. Ignatius of Antioch can help bolster our courage in moments of weakness so that we might face the lions in our lives, reminding us that there is no use in clinging to the false sense of security that the world provides us. The only lasting security we can have is in the treasures we build up in Heaven, which we attain through steadfastly loving and serving our neighbor, giving generously of ourselves, and remaining faithful to the Truth, despite whatever opposition we may face.
Image: Ignatius of Antioch, Galleria Borghese, Rome / PD-US