The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes from the most immediately personal of Paul’s Letters – the letter to Philemon.
The occasion for the letter was Paul’s return to Philemon of Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave who has now become a Christian.
From the 21st Century perspective the situation is a moral quagmire. But for Paul it is especially a matter of love and faith – see Onesimus as a brother in the Lord and receive him as such.
This is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him…
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