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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

October 17th: St. Ignatius of Antioch, martyr and bishop

Gospel text (Jn 12,24-26): Jesus said, «Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world keep it for everlasting life. Whoever wants to serve me, let him follow me and wherever I am, there shall my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him».

«Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit»

Fr. Antoni CAROL i Hostench (Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)

Today we contemplate the image of the grain of wheat that dies bearing much fruit (cf. Jn 12,24): it is Christ himself, not only metaphorically or symbolically, but literally. It's not about simple pretty words. Indeed, Jesus gave us his sacrifice of the Cross beforehand, becoming “bread” for us. Here are the textual words he spoke in the Cenacle: "Take and eat all of it, because this is my body crushed by you." Christ has become wheat so we can eat it with fruit!

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and contemporary martyr of the apostolic era (35-108), lived a martyrdom of striking resemblance to that of Christ. In the first place, because, like the Master, he did not find death in the blink of an eye. Jesus revealed from the beginning of his public ministry what his destiny was going to be: he knew where he was going and looked forward to his hour (cf. Lk 12,50).

The martyr bishop of Antioch, for his part, traveled as a prisoner a long itinerary from Syria to imperial Rome, where he was going to be executed. The journey to martyrdom lasted several weeks. During this itinerary, Ignatius wrote 7 beautiful letters to various Christian communities (Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna ...). These writings are a privileged testimony of the faith and life of the first Christian generations. Ignatius, like Christ, knew very well where he was going. The enthusiasm, illusion and love with which he expected martyrdom are impressive.

There is also a second aspect of the martyrdom of Saint Ignatius of Antioch that recalls especially the surrender of Jesus. In his letter "Ad Romanos" he affirms that he wanted to “be the wheat of God, may I be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so as to be made pure bread." What a beautiful fruit! identified with Jesus-crucified and similar to Jesus-Eucharist. Centuries have passed and we have never lacked the fruit of the Eucharist: God has made it much easier for us than for Saint Ignatius! Hopefully we do not lack the purity and enthusiasm of Saint Ignatius of Antioch!

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