Posts Tagged ‘changes in status’

Accepting Changes in Status

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Thursday of the 32nd  Week in Ordinary Time

Phil 7-20: Luke 17: 20-25

By Deacon Larry Brockman

It can be very difficult; yes, very difficult indeed for us to accept changes in someone’s status, especially if it turns the social order upside down.  But that’s what happened in the story of Philemon.


You see, Onesimus was a slave in the Philemon household.  Then he escaped; and after that he somehow became a companion to Paul.  Converted, and now accepted by Paul as a brother in Christ, Onesimus was sent back to Philemon’s household, and Paul is sending this letter along with him as a sort of credential.  Paul is asking Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother.


Now, as you can just imagine, that is asking a whole lot.  An escaped slave would be considered a significant “property” loss.  So anger, resentment, gall, thoughts of reprisal- all these things probably came to Philemon’s mind; and probably pressure from Philemon’s wife Apphia as well!  After all, it would have been Apphia who lost the actual help.


Now even though Paul has some standing in the community as a founder of the Church there, standing which gives him the right to “order” rather than “ask” this favor; Paul is not ordering but asking- asking for Onesimus to be accepted as a brother out of love.  Paul is asking for a huge adjustment from Philemon out of the goodness of his heart.  And that would be difficult, very difficult.  Because he is being challenged to let go of his biases and feelings and personal interests, and to accept everyone, even this renegade, as a brother in Christ without strings.


All of us are challenged to do the same, accept our neighbors with respect and love, even when status changes between us, and in some cases, the pecking order even flips.   But this kind of challenge happens all the time doesn’t it?  Someone else gets the promotion at work, maybe someone who worked for you;  someone else is chosen as head of the ladies group- maybe even the person you introduced;  someone else is chosen as the team captain at school; or even someone you knew from the past who all of a sudden is in a position of authority over you.


And why is it so important to accept them as a brother in Christ?  Because stature in this world is not where our ultimate happiness or stature lies.  That is one of the main points of the Gospel.  The Kingdom of God just is- it is among us.  And whatever the order of things, we are called to love our neighbor.  All will eventually be made known to us.  But for now, love is the answer.