Today we remember and give
thanks for Philemon and Onesimus. Philemon
was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus.
Although the name "Onesimus" means "useful," Onesimus
proved himself "useless" when he ran away from his master and perhaps
even stole from him (Philemon 18).
Somehow Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the
latter was in prison, and through Paul's proclamation of the Gospel he became a
Christian. After confessing to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, he was
directed by Paul to return to his master and become "useful" again.
In order to help pave the way for Onesimus' peaceful return home, Paul sent him
on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged
Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and "to receive him as
you would receive me" (v. 17), "no longer as a slave, but as a
beloved brother" (v. 16). The letter bears
witness to the power of the Gospel as it unites people in Christ and forges the
one people of God and was eventually recognized by
the Church as one of the books of the New Testament.
of the Day:
God, heavenly Father, You sent Onesimus back to Philemon as a brother in
Christ, freeing him from his slavery to sin through the preaching of the
apostle Paul. Cleanse the depths of sin
within our souls and bid resentment cease for past offenses, that, by your
mercy, we may be reconciled to our brothers and sisters and our lives will
reflect your peace; through
Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and forever.
(Treasury of Daily Prayer, 1211-1212)