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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Remembrance of Saint Leo the Great, bishop of Rome, who led the Church through difficult times.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Philemon 1,7-20

I have received much joy and encouragement by your love; you have set the hearts of God's holy people at rest. Therefore, although in Christ I have no hesitations about telling you what your duty is, I am rather appealing to your love, being what I am, Paul, an old man, and now also 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. He was of no use to you before, but now he is useful both to you and to me. I am sending him back to you -- that is to say, sending you my own heart. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the gospel has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I suppose you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, merely so that you could have him back for ever, no longer as a slave, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, both on the natural plane and in the Lord. So if you grant me any fellowship with yourself, welcome him as you would me; if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, put it down to my account. I am writing this in my own hand: I, Paul, shall pay it back -- I make no mention of a further debt, that you owe your very self to me! Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; set my heart at rest, in Christ.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Today the Liturgy has us read Paul’s letter to Philemon. The note was written during Paul’s time in prison, either in Rome or Ephesus, and was addressed to Philemon in favour of Onesimus, the slave. Having escaped from his master, Onesimus met Paul who converted him to the Gospel. Onesimus then stayed with Paul for a period and served him. Later, Paul sends him to Philemon with this note in which he asks Philemon to welcome Onesimus not as a slave but as a "beloved brother." Paul’s words show how much the Gospel’s power can be the yeast of human life, changing it deeply, including our relationships with others. The apostle does not negate the juridical law of the times—and in fact, Onesimus remains in his social condition of slavery—but Gospel love overcomes this law at its roots. Indeed, it is in this way that Paul uproots the rationale which sustained slavery. This new dimension of brotherhood allows the master and slave—once touched by the Gospel—to live true brotherhood. In this situation the tight friendship between Paul and both Philemon and Onesimus matters a lot. Carrying out Gospel brotherhood is not a theoretical exercise, but it implies a real change which comes through concrete and lasting friendships. The apostle probably could not change the legal customs, but the brotherhood which flowed from the Gospel could not but involve those who welcome it. In the way of the Gospel, everyone is inscribed as a child of God and so the brotherhood established among us goes beyond our social conditions and habits. In sending back Onesimus, Paul knows well that their common faith has cancelled the worldly distinction between them. Even if one is master of the other, they have been radically made brothers and must live as such. It is this spirit which led—albeit after many centuries—the Western culture to defeat slavery socially and legally. Today, this Letter should make us reflect on the many types of slavery which subjugate men and women today—in new ways but no less damaging—and which await from Christians the yeast of Gospel humanism.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday