free will and free love
"I did not want to do anything without your consent, that kindness might not be forced on you but might be freely bestowed." —Philemon 14
In today's first reading, St. Paul, a spiritual father to Philemon, is writing to Philemon to make a special request of him. Philemon was a slave owner, a relatively wealthy man of the city of Colossae. One of Philemon's slaves, Onesimus, whose name means "Useful," had apparently escaped and had stolen from Philemon in the process (Phlm 15, 18). Onesimus crossed paths with Paul, who converted him to Christianity. Therefore, Paul became a spiritual father to Onesimus, who became a "useful" minister of the gospel in the process. Paul convinced Onesimus to humbly return to Philemon and restore what he had stolen. Paul cleverly appeals to Philemon to forgive Onesimus, not as his slave but as a brother in the Lord; in addition, Paul asks Philemon to grant Onesimus his freedom and let him return to work in Paul's ministry. This is a great deal to ask of Philemon!
This is much like the way God deals with each of us. God has given us the gift of free will (Catechism, 1730). The Lord wants us to love Him out of our free will. The gift of free will sets up the possibility that mankind might choose evil instead of love. Love given out of free will is the greatest force in the world, stronger even than death (see Sg 8:6). As the Church year draws to a close, finish the year by giving God the gift He so greatly desires: your love given totally to Him.
Prayer: "Take joy, my King, in what You hear. Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."
Promise: "I find great joy and comfort in your love, because through you the hearts of God's people have been refreshed." —Phlm 7
Praise: Pope St. Leo preached life-changing sermons and called many to holiness.
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, March 31, 2016
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