“Don’t have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your hearts.” – Ignatius of Antioch
The writings of Ignatius of Antioch are some of the most important of the Apostolic Fathers. The writings on the Real Presence in the Eucharist are often a catalyst for conversion for many non-Catholics. In fact, the word Catholic in reference to the Church was first used in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch. We owe him much in reference to our identity of faith as a people of the Eucharist – The Catholic Church.
Writing at a time of savage Christian persecutions by Emperor Trajan, Ignatius of Antioch was fed to the lions of the arena. Failing to renounce his faith, he died a martyr.
What if Ignatius of Antioch had merely professed Christ with his lips yet reserved his heart for the things of this world? Would he have quickly recanted his faith and preserved his physical life for a while longer? Certainly, modern man cannot imagine the threat of death by lions! Having your flesh torn from your bones by sharp teeth and claws would no doubt produce a retraction of faith in all those who did not have Christ in their hearts.
But what does this mean to you and me, modern humanity? Although there are still Trajans in this world (ISIS etc.), most of us live comfortable lives of distraction (thank you Facebook and Netflix). Our faith is tested, yes, but often in smaller less lion-esque ways. How do we know if we too profess Christ on our lips, but keep the things of this world in our hearts?
Pride might keep us from admitting that the world is too great an influence on our choices and thinking. Looking at my own life I can see clearly a pattern of worship for the things of this world. It is hard not to love what the world loves. In fact, if we do not love as the world does, we quickly become – an outsider. Now this is the beginning of conversion!
Who were these early fathers of the Church? These trailblazers were not the celebrities of today; they were set apart from the world. They were hated by the world. However, the Christ they professed with their lips became the fire in their heart with which they set the world aflame!
So, I write this to you my fellow social outsiders. Perhaps you have chosen to live with a radical love of Christ in your heart. Maybe this means your life looks a bit different than most. To all my fellow Catholic homeschooling moms, and those with more kids than “average,” I see Christ’s love in your heart. To all those friends who have rubbed the color off of their rosary beads and know every saint and novena by heart, I see you at every daily Mass and your heart expands with Eucharistic love. To all those little modest souls who veil and kneel before the Eucharist at Mass, your devotion to Jesus is spectacularly sweet.
No, none of you reflect the values and priorities of the world, and that is more than ok. Your heart is rightly ordered toward God. Although the world will mock and criticize a heart conformed for Christ alone, grace flows freely upon these little acts of martyrdom of the self. Have courage as the lions of today circle about. We live in the world, but are not of the world.
“Act as if God alone existed and nothing else.” – St. Ephraem the Syrian