Commentary on the Gospel of
The entire book of Philemon consists of a letter written from jail by Paul to Philemon, a fellow Christian. Paul was imprisoned for preaching the “Good News” of Jesus Christ. While he was a prisoner, he met Onesimus, an escaped slave, who became his friend, and whom he converted to Christianity. The drawback to this relationship was that Paul’s dear friend, Philemon, owned Onesimus. Paul convinced Onesimus to return to Philemon, and Paul, himself, would make restitution for anything that the slave owed Philemon. By sending Onesimus, Paul says, he is truly sending part of his own heart. Paul clearly cares about this man. He loves him as a brother and true Christian. Paul makes it very clear that he would like Philemon to forgive him, accept him as a brother, and to send him back as an equal to Paul, to help him in his ministry. Paul is being pragmatic on the surface, but he is also showing his love for a fellow Christian. His message is that we are all brothers; we are equal.
We are similar to Onesimus in that we have all transgressed in some way, but Jesus Christ has paid our debt and set us free. What will we do with our freedom? Will we thank God and move ahead with our own aims, or will we join our fellow Christians to work for the greater glory of God? We have great freedom as God’s people, but there are always those who are not yet free, and in need of our help. We are all equal in God. If we truly believe this, we will love, and actively help one another.
The responsorial Psalm is especially poignant, not only in the light of Paul’s letter, but in the context of the times in which we are living. The Lord secures justice for the oppressed; provides food for the hungry; sets captives free; …the Lord protects strangers. The Lord will provide. If we are with God, we are his instruments. We should act on his words. Do we see the spirit of God moving in our own actions today? Are we, as the people of God, giving ourselves to make the lives of others better?
“When will the Kingdom of God come”? Jesus tells us today that the “Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce ‘Look here it is’, or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” The Kingdom of God is, indeed, among us. God is the vine, and we are the branches. God is with us and in us. We are his instruments, and the living Kingdom, especially when we carry out his greatest commandment -- love one another. Provide food for the hungry; set captives free; protect strangers. These acts desperately need to be done. The Kingdom of God is among us. We should make it as evident as a flash of lightning, but possibly, more lasting.