ST IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, B.M. (Memorial) Red
Ignatius was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. During persecution, the Emperor Trajan ordered him to be taken to Rome. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. Ignatius of Antioch was the first writer to use the term the “catholic” Church. He died a martyr c.107 at Rome, killed by wild animals. His relics are at Saint Peter’s, Rome. The following was an excerpt from his last words: “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 bread.”
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
First Reading: Rm 1:16-25; Psalm: 19. R. v. 2a; Gospel: Lk 11 37-41
Jesus was a Jew and knew all the laws of the Jews. When he was invited to dine in the house of a Pharisee, he decided to act unlike a Jew to correct an attitude unlike a Christian. He went straight to the table and began to eat, neglecting the ritual washing of hands which every Jew must do before eating. The Jews believed that this ritual washing would purify them from their contact with the sinful world. And to omit this practice is considered a sin. Jesus knew that his host would react to his action, so he seized that opportunity to emphasise that legalism is useless without inner conversion.
Jesus wanted to correct this attitude exhibited by this set of Pharisees who are very good at keeping laws but pay less attention to inner purity. Jesus was saying that if they could replicate their commitment to keeping the law in paying attention to the purity of their hearts, they will be clean. “For it is from within that evil intention emerges: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil thing come from within and make a person unclean” (Mk 7:21-23).
How often do we care more about our public image than our inner life? No matter how religious and prayerful we are, if we are not moved to faith and true conversion of heart; we are very far from God. Observation of religious laws is not wrong. But they must not be used as an instrument of deception to project a false image of ourselves. Religious rites and practices like praying daily, going to Mass, and giving alms are meant to aid and prepare us to align ourselves to adequately respond to God’s call to holiness. God is more interested in the conversion of our soul. If we are clean from the inside; we are clean all over.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, help us to be a Christian in our hearts.