Oct 17 – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
St. Ignatius (c. 50–107) was a convert from paganism to Christianity. He succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria. He served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered to be taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. He was the first writer to use the term The Catholic Church. He was an apostolic father and a martyr. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.
- Patron Saint Index
“…do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.”
My wider family is a mixed bag. We are made up of Buddhists, Methodists, Protestants and Catholics. When we get together as a family, we steer clear on the topic of religion, lest we get into ‘difficult’ conversations; especially with the Protestants and Methodists – and why we ‘worship’ Mother Mary.
However, on the side, the Catholics would get together and, inadvertently, the topic of faith would come up. Our Catholic group is extremely ‘on’, all of us have gone through the most iconic retreat (Conversion Experience Retreat) conducted by our Archbishop himself. He is a gifted speaker and teacher. But really, it isn’t about him. It is the Holy Spirit who is the retreat master. For most of us, we were just obligatory Sunday Catholics, until we were touched by the Holy Spirit at the retreat. For me, that was 9 years ago.
What I am ashamed about is, why, after having been touched by the Holy Spirit and experiencing the love and forgiveness of God, am I apprehensive and shy about sharing my faith story? Why do I steer clear of debates and explain to my Protestant cousins that we do not worship Mary but honour her because she is the mother of Jesus. And we honour Mary, because God himself honoured her. Why is it that when my Buddhist cousins tell us off for praying in tongues because they feel uncomfortable, I do not defend it – that praying in the spirit is a partnership prayer with the Holy Spirit when human words cannot express, and we pray according to the will of God. Why? Simply because I am afraid of what people might say or think about me. Because I do not have the necessary theological knowledge? “do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Jesus tells us.
Today’s gospel reading tells us ‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels. But anyone who disowns me in the presence of human beings will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.’
I may not have disowned Jesus, but by being afraid to testify to His love is not doing me any favours as well. Many of us fail to acknowledge, and be grateful for, what Jesus has done in our lives. Maybe we are so caught up in our own little world that it is possible for us to become so completely unaware of God’s goodness and mercy.
St. Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians in today’s first reading states: May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call. In the Bible, the heart is who you really are at your most real identity – your soul or the core, your feelings, your mind and your will. St. Paul prays that the light would go on in our hearts and that we would truly see the hope we have. That’s why his prayer today speaks to me, reminding me that I have an inheritance from God, and I am part of God’s big plan. If we’d only take a moment to open our hearts and eyes to see and share with the world – the hope and goodness of God. That, my brothers and sisters, is what we are called to do.
All of us have the task of being witnesses of the Word and of the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. We don’t have to be theological scholars to share the word of God and what He has done in our lives. We don’t need to have a masters in theology or divinity to share our testimonies. These stories alone are such powerful tools of evangelization.
So let us go out today and open our mouths and speak of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And how our lives have been transformed — even if it’s just a gentle push in the right direction.
The Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, give me eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. May we know you, may we have hope, and may we know your power. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Jesus, thank you for the hope that comes with your call, and the greatness of power for us who believe.