From a letter to the Romans by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

The delights of this world and all its kingdoms will not profit me. I would prefer to die in Jesus Christ than to rule over all the earth. I seek him who died for us, I desire him who rose for us. I am in the throes of being born again. Bear with me, my brothers; do not keep me from living, do not wish me to die. I desire to belong to God; do not give me over to the world, and do not seduce me with perishable things. Let me see the pure light; when I am there, I shall be truly a man at last. Let me imitate the sufferings of my God. If anyone has God in him, let him understand what I want and have sympathy for me, knowing what drives me on.

The prince of this world would snatch me away and destroy my desire to be with God. So let none of you who will be there give him help; side rather with me, that is, with God. Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your hearts. Give envy no place among you. And if, when I get there, I should beg for your intervention, pay no attention to me; no, believe instead what I am writing to you now. For I write to you while I yet live, but I long for death. My earthly desires have been crucified, and there no longer burns in me the love of perishable things, but a living water speaks within me, saying: “Come to the Father.”

I take no delight in corruptible food or in the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was David’s seed, and for drink I want his blood, the sign of his imperishable love.

I no longer wish to live, as men count life. And I shall have my way, if you wish it so. Wish it, then, so that you too may have God’s favor. With these few words I beg you to believe me. Jesus Christ will make plain to you the truth of what I say; he is the true voice that speaks the Father’s truth. Pray for me that I may reach my goal. I have written to you not prompted by merely human feelings and values, but by God’s purpose for me. If I am to suffer, it will be because you loved me well; if I am rejected, it will be because you hated me. Remember in your prayers the church of Syria: it now has God for its shepherd instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will be its bishop, along with your love. For myself, I am ashamed to be counted among its members, for I do not deserve it, being the least of all, born out of due time. Yet, if I attain to God, by his mercy I shall be something. I greet you from my heart, and so do the churches that have welcomed me in love not as a mere passerby but as the representative of
Jesus Christ. Yes, even the churches that were not on my route humanly speaking, though spiritually on the same journey, were there to meet me in city after city.

I have fought the good fight

I just want to share with you a homily by Saint John Chrysostom

Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means. To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities.  

Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.

But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant.” I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out: Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalized that I am not consumed with indignation?

I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.

Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day – and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming. You see how he calls all to share the same glory?

Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.

In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realize that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.

stpaul2015