Freedom for slaves

Sunday 23 in Year C

As a child – I really didn’t think about slavery. Later, after studying a little history, I thought slavery no longer existed – but I was wrong!

In fact – although estimates and exact definitions vary – there are more slaves in total now than in any period of human history. Slaves are present in 87% of countries. Most experts estimate between 38 to 46 million slaves are in the world (equivalent to the entire population of Spain). 1 in 4 are children (more than 10 million). 71% are female – many as sex slaves and sex workers. 15 million extra are locked in forced marriages. Awful.

The topic of our second reading is still relevant. So sad!

Paul writes from prison. He met Philemon most likely in Ephesus. Onesimus has escaped from Colossal and somehow found his way to Rome, meets up with Paul, hears him speak about the life, death + resurrection of Jesus and has now become a Christian. Paul could have kept with him but instead he sends Onesimus back to his master – with this super bold request. Onesimus has no rights under Roman law, except the right to punishment. Philemon could arrest Onesimus or worse. So Paul takes on a delicate task. No need to talk about death + resurrection of Jesus (the only letter where these are not central themes) because he lives out the reality of the gospel in every lines that he shares. Salvation is always deeply personal – but it is never private. And it always calls us to a deeper freedom.

Liturgy of the Word

First Reading ‡ Wisdom 9:13-18

Who can comprehend the will of God?

Responsorial ‡ Psalm 89:3-6.12-14.17

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Second Reading ‡ Philemon 9-10.12-17

Receive him, not as a slave anymore, but as a very dear brother.

Gospel ‡ Luke 14:25-33

All who do not renounce their possessions cannot be my disciples.

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