Thursday, 17 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the Sacred Scriptures all of us are reminded of the salvation which God has brought into this world through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom He sent into the world to be its Saviour as He Himself has promised and which promises had been renewed again and again, from time to time, through the many prophets that God sent to His people.

God has loved us all from the beginning of time, even when we have gone astray and fell into sin, by the temptations of the world. God wants us all to be forgiven and healed, made whole and reconciled with Him. But it is us mankind who often refused to listen to Him and preferred to continue walking down our wrong and mistaken path which ended up in us getting ever more and more distant from Him. And one way of how this has happened is because we mankind misunderstood the Law He has given us.

God gave the Law to His people and revealing His love to them because through the Law He wanted them all to order their lives and to return to righteousness, abandoning all that are sinful and wicked, embracing only what is right and true in God’s eyes. The Law of God is a guide through which God wanted His people to be able to discover His love and to love Him wholeheartedly, and therefore, share that same love with their fellow brothers and sisters.

The essence of that love for God and for our fellow men is enshrined in the Ten Commandments, the heart and focal point of the Law which God has revealed through Moses. But the people failed to understand this and the meaning of the Law, and instead, they were preoccupied with the other matters and details of the Law, the rules and regulations and prescriptions which according to the Jewish tradition number some six hundred and thirteen.

And the Pharisees at that time took great pride in supposedly obeying and adhering strictly to all those rules and regulations, customs and practices, looking down on the rest of the people whom they thought to be less pious and less worthy than they were. And they also imposed the strict observance and practices on the rest of the people, persecuting all those who did not comply with their preferences.

But in doing so, they have in fact forgotten about the true intent and purpose of the Law, and of all things, they were the ones who were supposed to be custodians and teachers of the Law, and therefore guide the people to the truth of God. Their failure to embody the Law as it should have been was the reason why the Lord rebuked and criticised the Pharisees and their actions, which were done mostly for self-preservation and glory rather than for responsible and for the right intentions.

That is why today we are all called to reflect on our lives thus far and how we have lived them. Have we been truly faithful to God in all things and at all times? Or have we instead allowed our pride, ego and desire to corrupt us and to make us to sin as the Pharisees had done? Let us recall God’s great love for each and every one of us, and His willingness to forgive us and to be reconciled with us so that we may indeed find our way to be worthy again of God.

And let us all be inspired by the examples shown by a courageous man of God and disciple of the Lord, who was one of the early Church fathers, namely St. Ignatius of Antioch whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the early leaders of the Church, being the successor of St. Peter who founded the See of Antioch prior to his establishment of the See of Rome. St. Ignatius would continue the good works that St. Peter had started.

St. Ignatius dedicated his life to his ministry and spent much effort in caring for his flock even amidst terrible and brutal persecutions against the Church and the faithful, writing extensively to the larger Church community encouraging them to keep the faith. He was eventually arrested and brought to Rome, where according to Apostolic tradition, he was brought into the Colosseum with other Christians and had ravenous beasts released at them. Nonetheless he remained steadfast and welcomed his martyrdom with faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should also devote ourselves to God, love Him and be faithful to Him just as St. Ignatius of Antioch had done. Let us ask for the intercession of St. Ignatius that God will continue to strengthen our faith so that we may draw closer to Him and grow deeper in our love and relationship with Him. May God bless us all and remain with us always. Amen.

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