Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch when he died around 110AD. Tradition says he was a disciple of John the Apostle. During the persecution of Christians, Ignatius was arrested and no one knows why, instead of being executed in Antioch, he was brought to Rome and on the way, he met representatives from other Catholic communities. He wrote letters addressed to these communities, one of which was Ephesus. His letter to the Ephesians echos what Paul wrote to the same community. Ignatius spoke of the importance of unity in the Church which is why he calls for obedience to the bishop, the presbytery and deacons. There seemed to be a lot of sects teaching error and Ignatius warns the Ephesians to live according to the truth, listening only to Jesus Christ. We can conclude then, unity of the Church is not unity at any cost, compromising so others will not be offended. But the unity of the Church depends on the Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Ignatius warns that those who deceive do not speak the things of Christ, but his own. He glorifies himself, for he is full of arrogance. Ignatius has strong words to those whom he accuses of corrupting the doctrine of Christ saying they shall go into hell. Ignatius concludes everyone that has received from God the power of discernment and yet follows and unskillful shepherd, and receives a false opinion for the truth, shall be punished. He is telling us that we need to learn our faith and not just rely on what people say, because we will be held accountable for our errors.
In the First Reading, Paul also sees false teaching as dangerous which is why he prays: [God] give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him. When we know God, Paul says the eyes of your heart is enlightened and we will know God has called us to the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God’s power works in those who believe. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul uses the Greek word from where we get the word energy. God’s power energizes those who believe. This is why Ignatius says faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. God’s power makes our faith visible through our actions. Which is why persecutions happen when we desire to know God.
Jesus warned his disciples to expect persecutions because persecutions are opportunities to hold on to our faith, trusting in the power of God that energizes us, speaking God’s Truth without fear. When persecutions come, and we we are called to defend ourselves, we are not to worry because the Spirit will give us words to say. This is why Ignatius encourages the Church in Ephesus to meet together in the same place to destroy the powers of Satan and his fiery darts. St Paul says in Ephesians 6 that faith is the shield that extinguishes the fiery darts of the devil. Communal worship encourages us, especially during times of persecution or in today’s case, times of pandemic. In Chapter 9 of this letter, Ignatius wrote: Let our present and true joy be only this, to be found in Christ Jesus, that we may truly live. Do not at any time desire so much as even to breathe apart from him. For he is my hope; he is my boast; he is my never-failing riches.
In this Eucharist, Jesus calls us to come back to him. He is our hope, our boast, our never failing riches. Ignatius wrote that the Eucharist is breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote which prevents us from dying, but a cleansing remedy driving away evil, that we should live in God through Jesus Christ. So as the bread and wine are consecrated, we ask Jesus to enter our lives and transform it.
We may be discouraged, we may be afraid. We may doubt the presence and the power of God to save. We may have lost our livelihood, we may lose our health, we may have lost our loved ones. These emotions are natural we are not to feel ashamed of these but we go past these because we know, Jesus is with us. He wants to be the joy that conquers the sorrow. He wants to be the medicine that heals our wounds and pains. He may not to tell us why we suffer, but he will be with us through the suffering. He wants to be the life in God which the Psalm tells us, one that is crowned with glory and honor. Jesus, our sovereign Lord, has power to drive out the chaos, the darkness and evil in our lives. And he calls you today.
Now is the time to come back to Jesus. He will not give us joy because, he will be our joy. He will not give us peace, because he is our peace. He will not give us life, because he is our life. He gives us himself and that is all we need. Do not be afraid, come home to Jesus and you will see him and know him, and as he promised, you will live in glory and honor in God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.