Prayer for peace

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Memory of Onesimus, slave of Philemon, but brother in faith of the Apostle Paul.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Philemon 1, 1-25

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus and from our brother Timothy; to our dear fellow worker Philemon,

our sister Apphia, our fellow soldier Archippus and the church that meets in your house.

Grace and the peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I always thank my God, mentioning you in my prayers,

because I hear of the love and the faith which you have for the Lord Jesus and for all God's holy people.

I pray that your fellowship in faith may come to expression in full knowledge of all the good we can do for Christ.

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.

I am writing with complete confidence in your compliance, sure that you will do even more than I ask.

There is another thing: will you get a place ready for me to stay in? I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.

Epaphras, a prisoner with me in Christ Jesus, sends his greetings;

so do my fellow-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The story of Onesimus, who fled from his master Philemon, reminds us of the many men and women who today continue to flee from their homeland. They are millions of people who look for a better future for themselves and their families. They too, like Onesimus, hope to find freedom and a more human life. Unfortunately people continue to rise up barriers to block the flow, however unstoppable, of immigrants. Onesimus, on the other hand, was welcomed by Paul who, though in chains, touched his heart by communicating the Gospel to him. And Onesimus began to serve him. The apostle, in sending Onesimus back to Philemon, invites him to be moved and welcome his slave with love. Paul writes to Philemon with the authority that comes to him for being in chains for the sake of Gospel - "I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus." It is the authority of love that drives Paul to intercede for Onesimus: "I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me." Paul plays with the etymology of the name Onesimus that is Greek means useful, advantageous. The apostle asks Philemon to receive that "son" no longer as a slave, but as a "beloved brother," and he writes: "So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me." The apostle demonstrates the new strength that is born from the Gospel and that changes radically the relationships among people. The social relations of that time were not undone and Onesimus remains in his social condition of bondage. However, the Gospel radically defeats the relation of slavery: the master and the slave, both touched by the Gospel, are called to live as brothers who both serve the same Lord. It is the new humanism that the strength of the Gospel is able to generate even in our time.