Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
The other day I watched a program on EWTN about the life of the Servant of God, Father Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll Missionary priest and Navy chaplain who was killed in action in Vietnam on September 4, 1967 while ministering to those under his care. His actions and service, both in the military and most importantly in the service of the Lord as a priest/chaplain among the troops was inspiring. He was awarded the highest honor that America can offer to those who serve, the Medal of Honor, “for heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty”. The Catholic Church has declared him a Servant of God, the first of the four stages toward possible canonization, for his service as a priest “beyond the call of duty”. His is a truly inspiring story.
Our Scriptures for this weekend remind us that we are called by the Lord to an everlasting inheritance and true freedom rooted in a life of committed service and love. This can only be found in the love and service of God and of each other, and an emptying of ourselves so that we can be filled with the love, peace and joy of Christ Jesus.
In our world today many strive for lives of ease and comfort, even in our religious life. Many are content to do what needs to be done and nothing more. The commitment that the Scriptures call us to is seen as belonging to a dedicated few. The values that are the basis of our walk with God are seen as ideals rather than concrete step that lead to everlasting life.
Ordinary time is about listening to the Lord in the Scriptures and through the Church. We find the teachings of Jesus laid out for us so that we can take up the mantle and become his disciples. When peace and love are the lessons, we are attentive. But when we are called to sacrifice or a change of heart, we find it more difficult to listen and respond.
Philemon, in our second reading today, is confronted with a major challenge. His slave, Onesimus, had been imprisoned with Paul. Paul shared Christ with Onesimus and they became close. Paul saw him as his child and a companion in following Jesus. Paul was now sending him home to Philemon with the exhortation (and challenge) of accepting him back into Philemon’s home - not as a slave returned to service – but as a brother in Christ, an equal as a person, a friend and beloved companion on the journey. Paul tells Philemon: “So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.”
What was being asked of Philemon was a total transformation of his relationship. It was no easy task. It required that he empty himself of his limitations and prejudices and be filled with the love of Christ. Philemon saw that transformation in Paul and came to realize that he would find it within himself.
Father Vincent Capodanno gave dedicated love and service to God and others. Paul and Philemon had found that same dedication. You and I are also invited to the invitation of the Lord to be a true servant of God, despite the challenges.
By: Father Leonard Stoviak, Retired Priest of the Diocese of Greensburg