Free from burden
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
September 4, 2022
Keep in mind that Jesus is walking the road to Jerusalem as he speaks to the crowd in the Gospel passage we hear today. As he tells them that those who follow him must be prepared to carry their own cross, he himself is heading toward the day when he will literally be carrying his own cross. Jesus does not carry a cross to free us from the burden of ever having to do so ourselves. He does not save us from suffering. But by carrying his own cross, he shares in our suffering. How can Jesus, who speaks so eloquently about love, and teaches us that love of God and love of neighbor are a distillation of the entire law, say today that we should hate our family and even our own life? This language may reflect a Semitic idiom that refers to primary loyalty. In this context “hate” means whoever is not one’s primary choice, one’s primary love. It also helps to keep the words from Wisdom in mind: “Who can conceive what the LORD intends?” (9:13). We must trust in the One whose mind is greater than what we can conceive. May we find guidance from the Holy Spirit, who as Wisdom says, comes to us from on high with God’s wisdom. Today we hear Saint Paul’s letter to Philemon, a fellow Christian, about his former slave, Onesimus. Onesimus has escaped. After speaking with Paul, who is ironically in prison himself, he converted to Christianity. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this letter is not that he insists Philemon welcome him back, but also that he entrusts this request to Onesimus himself, who could have destroyed this brief letter and run in the opposite direction. After all, he could have been executed if he were apprehended. It is also significant that Paul trusts that Philemon will voluntarily forgive and free Onesimus. Paul enables both Onesimus and Philemon to face their own moral choice, trusting that each will choose to act according to their newfound faith, allowing them both to experience a conversion of heart firsthand. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2022)
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