You will be reading this on the first weekend of September, which this year, is also the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The second reading this Sunday is from Paul’s Letter to Philemon. The letter is brief, yet revelatory about social conditions in those days as well as our own. Philemon is a Christian slave owner and Onesimus is his slave who has escaped and is now in prison with Paul. The whole purpose of the letter is to get Philemon to take Onesimus back as a slave who is now a brother to him. Of course those two words, ‘slave” and “brother” do not go together.
It seems that Paul accepted the institution of slavery, hard though it is for us to understand. Nonetheless, he tried to restructure how it operated when both owner and slave were Christians. Remember that Paul tells us that in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, slave or free. All are one and equal in Christ.
I wish that we knew how the story ended. Did Philemon take Onesimus back? Did he treat him differently? Did the other slaves notice the change? Did Philemon treat them differently? We will never know. What we do know is that to be “in Christ” (by your Baptism) is to have a different relationship with others. To “put on Christ” is to see the world differently, as Jesus sees it and to act accordingly.
To change course, let me tell you that two long time parishioners, Bill and Anne Groener, will be leaving us and moving to Las Vegas. They both have been deeply involved in the parish and are a witness to what it means to remain faithful even in the face of great loss, the death of their son Chris. Chris died on Christmas Eve morning, and that night Bill and Anne came to sing at the 6PM Mass, a tradition they have carried on each year since the death of their beloved son.
We will have an open house in their honor at the rectory on Sunday September 18th from 2-4 pm. Come if you can, and say a prayer for them.
Finally, on a note of good news, this summer we have received two bequests from long time faithful parishioners. The estates of Joe Scalisi and of Dorothy Hartnett each gave the parish $5,000. Thin