Reflection for Friday, October 17, 2003: 28th week in Ordinary Time.

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Hamm, Dennis, S.J.
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This St. Ignatius lived some fourteen centuries before St. Ignatius of Loyola. Indeed, he was born in Syria only five years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The main thing we know about him is that he made a trip from Antioch to Rome under a guard of ten Roman soldiers, to be martyred, around 107, in the Coliseum. The seven letters he wrote on the way remain classics of early Christian literature. The readings that the Church picks for his memorial catch the vision that illuminates why a man would walk so confidently into the teeth of lions to meet his Master. Let's read the passage chosen from the Gospel of John. It uses language very startling to our modern ears.||"Amen, amen, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." To help explain the meaning of his death, Jesus notes the productivity of death in the world of nature. Seeds really do have to die, break open, under the ground before they can germinate. Though corpses don't bloom like daisies, Jesus' death leads to the emergence of a transformed body after his crucifixion. And of course that leads to applications about us, who purport to be Jesus' followers. |The next verse makes exactly that application: "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." On the face of it, that statement sounds psychologically unhealthy. Are we not supposed to love our life? And don't we worry about a friend who states that he hates his life? We need to go beyond the apparent surface here. In the language of the Fourth Gospel, "this world" often means the realm of unbelief, and "eternal life" means more than "endless life"; in this Gospel eternal life means "the eon life"-that is, the life of the "new age" that one is "born into" by accepting Jesus as sent by the Father to be the light of the world. As all the gospels and the letters of Paul make clear, the Christian life entails dying to one way of being in the world (being organized totally around promoting the self) in order to live with a new set of relationships to God, world, self and others.|Part of the power of St. Ignatius' testimony on the road to his literal bloody martyrdom is the way they demonstrate the freedom a Christian can have when he or she truly dies to the world of unbelief and lives out this new set of (eternal, or new eon) relationships. Physical death becomes a gate to continue that new set of relationships already begun in this life. Even if our next trip is as mundane as the morning commute to work, if we have died the way Jesus is talking about, we can live and love with the freedom and joy of this first-century bishop on the road to the Coliseum.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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