Gospel Reflection Tuesday 28th Week Ordinary Time (17 October) – Saint Ignatius of Antioch
Today, as we celebrate the memorial of St Ignatius of Antioch, Lisa Bright reads from the Gospel of Luke (11: 37-41) in which a Pharisee at whose house Jesus is dining, is surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not wash before the meal. Lisa notes, Saint Ignatius of Antioch was an early bishop of Antioch appointed by the Apostle Peter in about the year 69. He was a disciple of Jesus’ beloved disciple John. Saint Ignatius of Antioch held firm teaching and practice amongst the early Christians and was martyred for not renouncing the Christian faith. His letters are a strong connection to the early church and reveal a strong, faithful, devout witness to Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Apostles. From one of his letters just before his martyrdom, St Ignatius says, “My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being.” In today’s Gospel, Lisa notes, we hear an invitation to be aligned with God by our care for the other. The material things, the rules and laws mean little if they are contradicted by words and action that are not actions of love towards another. Material things mattered little to St Ignatius as he sought to live in pure light with Christ. In this particular Gospel, Jesus seems to be making a very blatant point of not taking part in the ritual action of cleansing before a meal so that he could emphasise what God really wants of us: to give alms, to show our love for other people. And when we do this, to consider what our motivation is. Lisa says she recently saw a movie where the characters’ motivation for helping people was so they could feel accepted. Their ‘helping people’ wasn’t going so well and they realised, “we had it all wrong. We were helping others for the wrong reasons”. In the movie they identified that their motivation was self-directed rather than towards the other. Lisa invites us to consider our own motivation when we give alms – whether it be a donation to a charity, giving of time to volunteer or minister, or help someone what is my motivation? Am I doing it ONLY to make me feel good or ONLY to fulfil a commitment or requirement? Or am I going one step further to consider how what I am doing might impact and support another? Once my motivation is pure, then everything else will “be clean for you” (as Jesus reminds us in this Gospel). As St Ignatius of Antioch’s desire was to belong to God, Lisa says, may we strive to live fully in God’s love through our loving encounters with one another.