Thursday of 28th Week of Ordinary C--Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

A Grain of Wheat Must Die to Bear Fruits

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr. He was a disciple of Saint John. Ignatius was a man of prayer and fasting that when Domitian persecuted the Church, he spent time in prayer and fasting for peace of his own flock. In the year 107, the Emperor Trajan came to Antioch and forced the Christians to choose between apostasy and death. When Ignatius was brought before the emperor, he said to him, “Who are you, poor devil who sets our commands at naught?” To this, Ignatius responded, “Call not him ‘poor devil’ who bears God within him.” The emperor didn’t understand the meaning, so Ignatius explained that he bore in his heart Christ crucified for his sake. Thereupon, the emperor condemned him to be torn to pieces by wild beasts at Rome. He was devoured by lions and left nothing of his body except a few bones which were reverently treasured at Antioch until their removal to the Church of Saint Clement at Rome in 637.  

Death is that we all have to face as human beings. Yes indeed. However, there are deaths that we honor, and there are deaths that we don’t even want to remember. The death of Ignatius of Antioch is the death that we honor not because of his heroic death but because of his heart bears the Christ who crucified for his sake. In Christ’s name, there is no evil or devil exist. Ignatius courageously reminds the emperor this fact that Christ is in him that no devil can reside in his heart except Christ. He is sentenced to be torn among the beasts and received the martyr’s crown before God. On the other hand, the death of Trajan begins with an illness, history told, but he still sails to Selinus (modern Gazipasa) in Cilicia which is later called Trajanopolis, he suddenly dies from edema at the age of 63.

As a priest, I have a privilege to visit, to anoint, and to give people the last rite and to celebrate funeral Mass for the decease. Some people are already prepared to follow the Lord when he comes, so they are imprinted with peace on their faces. Others still cannot accept the fact that they are dying for whatever reason, they die with not a peaceful death.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us saying, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” A grain of wheat falls to the ground, not to the bush of thorns, nor on the rock, etc. How does a grain of wheat die if it’s not on the soil ground? We are all reminded to die to ourselves in following the Lord Jesus and his teaching. This is exactly how we die to receive the heavenly reward. Saint Ignatius of Antioch dies with Christ who is in his heart, his entire being that he received his martyr’s crown, how would you and I want to die when the Lord comes to call us? Are you and I ready for he comes?


Weekday Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Thang Nguyen

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