Short but Sweet

Short but Sweet

By Fr. Norm Tanck

I am impressed by my Protestant friends who have memorized large portions of the Bible. How would you like to impress people by memorizing a whole book of the Bible? Try memorizing Paul’s Letter to Philemon, the book from which our second reading is taken today. It is only 25 verses long. St. Paul is writing this letter from prison. With him is Onesimus, a runaway slave who was about to be returned to his master. Since he ran away, he was converted and baptized a Christian. Although, under the law, he was still a slave. Paul is asking Philemon and the Christian community he leads to welcome Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. He is asking them to see the man in a new light and relate to him in a new way. Paul writes, “I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you… Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord”. The ambiguity is that when Onesimus returns he will still be a slave under the law, but he is first and foremost to be accepted and welcomed as a brother. Sadly, it would be centuries before human slavery is abolished. And there are many things today that still hold people captive. Human trafficking exists in many forms throughout the world. Our brothers and sisters of different races and languages, different cultures and faiths are still held in bondage, alienated from the human community, our society, the Church and nation because of prejudice and fear. Who will be the St. Paul in this day and age asking us and the world to welcome all as beloved brothers and sisters, as children of God? How will we respond when this is asked of us?

September 8 Readings:

Wisdom 9.13-18

Psalm 90

Philemon 9b-10, 12-17

Luke 14.25-33