Posted by: livingscripture | November 13, 2014

Thirty-second Thursday in Ordinary Time

From the Word of the Day

“So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.  And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me.  I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I will pay.  May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.  Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.  Refresh my heart in Christ.’”

 (Philemon 17-20)            

 

How should we live this Word

Today in the first reading we meet a text which we rarely hear and is little known.  This is why I enjoy pausing on it for a while.  This is the shortest letter of the Apostle Paul and is written to Philemon.  More than a letter, it is a note of only 20 verses.  And yet, this brief writing image029- circle of friendsremains as a small masterpiece, full with vivacity, cordiality, human warmth, and even some humor.  Without this letter, we would know the heart of Paul much less, above all in its most intimate and human nuances, so different from the heated and polemical tone of his other letters.

A slave by the name of Onesimus, which means ‘useful’ in Greek, had fled from his master Philemon and had taken with him quite a sum of his money.  After various vicissitudes, he meets Paul who was in prison.  The Apostle proclaims the Gospel to him and coverts him to Christianity, then sends him back to his master with this letter of recommendation.  Philemon had also been converted by Paul and is asked to receive his slave as ‘himself’ and above all as ‘a beloved brother in the Lord’.

Even in its brevity, this note is so important that it has been justly considered ‘the first Christian declaration of human rights’.  What was most important to Paul was to transform from within the human relationship between master and slave, teaching to see the slave as a brother, with the same dignity and greatness in the Lord.  Human history would over the centuries and with great difficulty, arrive at a proclamation of the dignity of every human being.  The seed had already been sown by Paul in this brief writing and in the Letter to the Galatians, “There is no longer slave, nor free person…because you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 27-28)

Today as I pause for silent contemplation, I will consider the dignity every human being has as a child of God.

Lord, thank You for the dignity You bestow on all human beings.  Help me to be ever mindful of this and act accordingly. 

The voice of St. John Chrysostom, Church Doctor 

The great Paul enthusiast and passionate reader of his letters, makes this stupendous affirmation about the Apostle, “The heart of Christ was the heart of Paul”.

 

 

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