Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2020
Memorial Feast: Saint Josaphat (1580-+1623) Patron Saint of the Ukraine
Letter of Saint Paul to Philemon 7:20; Psalm 146:7-10; Luke 17:20-25
Let’s begin with a prayer—The Lord’s Prayer. Close your eyes for a few moments, and recite the prayer that Jesus Himself has taught us. Think about the words as you pray; feel them as if Jesus is praying along with you. Well done!
If we pay attention to The Lord’s Prayer, we notice that we ask God to inaugurate His kingdom on earth, not just in heaven. To know what this might mean to us, we need only recall the parable of the prodigal son. A father reaching out in love to his lost son, who had broken all of the rules of behavior by which a well-ordered society structured itself. Still, we can easily rationalize all that has occurred between the father and his lost son. We might be downgrading the kingdom to the hereafter.
Then we read (and re-read) Saint Paul’s Letter to Philemon. We find that this is not a set of noble principles or high-sounding (but impractical) ideals. We actually find a polite request from one man to another to do some “kingdom coming now,” and in the process, literally, turn his tidy little world on its head.
The Roman Empire was built on slavery, which was far more brutal than over the last several centuries. For example, if a runaway slave was captured he or she would be executed with exceptional cruelty in front of others slaves to serve as a warning to all who may attempt to escape. Not doing so would lead to other escapes. Slave uprisings and the stoppage of a large labor force lead to economic consequences.
Yet, that is exactly what Paul asks Philemon to do for his runaway slave, Onesimus. As soon as Onesimus is returned to Philemon, he will be executed in an unspeakable manner.
Unfortunately, we do not know what happened next. It is possible that Philemon
said “no” to Paul’s request. The same sort of world upsetting actions are asked of us.
I believe that what is more important is how we understand the major question of Paul’s letter. Do we enslave other people? Possibly not in any obvious ways, but do we treat people as objects? This creates a mindset on how we may view others like slaves, as a whole. Do our interactions diminish them? Do we relegate some people to a status of mere physical functions, or does what we say and the way we treat them truly present in a Christ-like way?
I hope and pray we do not. Our world needs a lot of “kingdom-coming.”
Question of the Day: How will you view everyone you meet in the same way Christ sees them?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray that our hearts will be refreshed in Your name and filled with trust, love and mercy. Amen