“…I will gladly die for God….” St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote those words to the Christians in Rome, in 107 AD, as he was being brought to Rome to be torn apart by the wild beasts in the arena.
“…I will gladly die for God….” How many of us would say the same? Are you willing to die for Christ Jesus? I don’t think that many of us will be thrown to wild beasts for the sake of Christ. Most of us will not be asked if we are willing to be shot, stabbed or killed in any other way for God.
However, that does not mean that we are not asked to “die for God.” How many are burdened with sickness or problems in our families or unemployment? We fight it, we get angry, we blame God for our difficulties. Perhaps these are situations where God is inviting us to die for Him?
I am not suggesting that if we are sick we don’t try to get better. If the doctor wants us to take medication, take the medicine. I am not suggesting that if we are unemployed we shouldn’t try to find a job; send out those resumes and go on interviews. No, what I am suggesting is that we don’t just get angry with God and walk away. That we offer up our suffering for the salvation of souls. If we are having problems in our marriage, instead of just getting that divorce, perhaps God is calling us to suffer in our marriage for the salvation of souls? Maybe it is for the soul of our spouse or of our children? Maybe it is for the witness marriage provides to others to God’s permanent, faithful and fruitful love for us?
St. Ignatius of Antioch recognized that we can all give into weakness and fear. In the same letter that he wrote to the Christians in Rome that he would gladly die for God, he also begged them to not consider what he might say once he got to Rome and he seems to lose his resolve. He knew that when he got closer to facing the wild beasts he might become afraid and want to go back on his resolve to die for God. He told the Roman Christians to pray for him, and to know that what he was writing to them was his true intention because he knew that his true and eternal happiness was with Christ Jesus.
When we are being asked to “die for God,” even if in only a little way, we too might lose our resolve to offer everything up to God. Fear is only human. But when we are afraid we need to ask our family of Faith to pray for us, to strength us in our resolve, to give us courage to face whatever may come as a faithful disciple of Christ Jesus.