Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
During the reign of the Emperor Trajan – that is, sometime between 98 AD and 117 – Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch after St Peter, was condemned as a Christian and brought bound in chains to Rome to die in the amphitheatre. Along the way he wrote letters to several Christian communities, and sent one ahead of him to the Christians in Rome. He pleaded with them not to attempt to save his life. It is the best commentary in all literature on today’s reading.
“I am wheat for him, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made purest bread for Christ….When there is no trace of my body left for the world to see, then I shall truly be Jesus Christ’s disciple. So intercede with him for me, that by the instrumentality of the beasts I may be made a sacrifice to God….
“All the ends of the earth, all the kingdoms of the world would be of no profit to me. So far as I am concerned, to die in Jesus Christ is better than to be monarch of earth’s widest bounds. He who died for us is all that I seek; he who rose again for us is my whole desire. The pangs of birth are upon me; have patience with me, my brothers and sisters, and do not shut me out from life, do not wish me to be stillborn. Here is one who only longs to be God's; do not make a present of him to the world again, or delude him with the things of earth. Allow me to attain to light, light pure and undefiled; for only when I am come thither shall I be truly a man. Leave me to imitate the passion of my God…. Here and now, as I write in the fulness of life, I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father.’”
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