我存证道》23 rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

					
The people were saved by wisdom.
Wis. 9:13-18; Phlm. 9b-10, 12-17; Lk. 14:25-33

"And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom." [Wis. 9:18] One of the Books of the Old Testament that I really enjoy reading is the Wisdom of Solomon. Why? Because when I read it, I replace the word "wisdom" with the words "Holy Spirit." By doing so, I come to perceive a completely different perspective of this Book. I come to perceive the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in my life and in the world.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us five things.

(1) First of all, we as human beings are very limited in our reasoning because we lack Divine knowledge and understanding. We are limited in our ability of doing things and of knowing the Divine Will of God. When we pray to do the Will of God, we always question if our words and our actions are according to His Divine Will. It is only after years have passed by, when we look back at our lives, that we are able to perceive if we have done the right thing and subjected ourselves to the omnipotent Will of the Lord.

Our limitation in knowing and understanding God is because our earthbound body is a weigh on our heavenward aspirations. "For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent (us) from doing what (we) want." [Gal. 5:17] In other words of St. Paul, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." [Rom. 7:15, 19]

(2) Secondly, God sent the Holy Spirit to give us Wisdom. This verse is prophetic in nature. Written nearly 1,000 years prior to the ministry of Jesus, it echoed the promise of the Lord to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. [Jn. 14:26, 16:7] Such was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. [Acts 2:1-13]

(3) Thirdly, the Holy Spirit teaches us the way, the truth and the life. [Jn. 14:6] Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us everything, and remind us of all that He has done. [Jn. 14:26]

(4) Fourthly, through the Holy Spirit, we learn how to please God. In the words of Jesus, "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." [Jn. 4:23-4]

(5) And finally, through the Divine wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we are saved. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are born again. Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the Spirit is spirit." [Jn. 3:5-6] Through faith in Jesus Christ and the Church Sacrament of Baptism, we are born again as new creations. We were buried with Christ so that we could be raised from death to walk the new life that we have received through Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] (C.C.C. # 628) "The new creation is everything!" [Gal. 6:15]

Today's Second Reading takes us to the Letter of Paul to Philemon. Through verse 19, we learn that Philemon had been converted through the efforts of St. Paul. Philemon was the master of the slave Onesimus. This slave had runaway and somehow found himself in the company of Paul who converted him. Now, St. Paul was appealing to Philemon's good will to welcome Onesimus back while hinting how useful the slave had been to him.

In today's Reading, Paul begins by referring to himself as an old man and a prisoner of Christ Jesus. [Phlm. 9] In those days, an old man would have been considered around the ages of 50 to 60. In his reference to being a prisoner of Christ Jesus, St. Paul was not seeking sympathy. He may have been hinting of his senior status in the Christian community, possibly even as an "ambassador of Christ." [Eph. 6:20] The introduction of this letter is very important. Paul had to win the heart of Philemon so when Onesimus returned to him, he would not be walking into a hostile environment.

Paul knew that through his letter, he had to spiritually uplift Philemon so that his actions would reflect a Christlike behaviour towards Onesimus. St. Paul most likely had some of the quotes of Jesus on his mind. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." [Jn. 14:15] "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." [Mt. 10:40] "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the last of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." [Mt. 25:40]

As an apostle of the Lord, St. Paul could have ordered Philemon to welcome back Onesimus in love. Rather, he chose to appeal to him in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

In verse 10, Paul stated, "I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment." Imagine the shock of Philemon when he received the letter. Here his runaway slave, that he most likely figured he would never see again, had been led to Christ. By who? By Paul, a prisoner, the same Paul who had converted him.

Here we see the wisdom of God at work. As Philemon was saved by wisdom, (the Holy Spirit,) so was his slave Onesimus. It was no coincidence that Onesimus was saved by St. Paul. It was the awesome and miraculous way of God at work. Both, the master and the slave, had been converted by the same man, but yet in different places and under different circumstances.

In verse 12, St. Paul says, "I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you." In other words, Paul was saying that through the loss of the slave Onesimus, he would be losing something he greatly cherished. It was like losing part of himself. As a spiritual father, St. Paul must have become very fond of the goodness of Onesimus that the Lord Jesus had placed on his path.

It should be noticed here that St. Paul did not condemn or forbid slavery. To the contrary, Onesimus was being sent back to his master. Knowing that both, the master and slave were children of God, Philemon was obligated to treat Onesimus with Christian love. At the same time, Onesimus was obligated to serve Philemon in Christian faithfulness. As such, Paul was not doing an injustice to Onesimus by sending him back.

Also, there is the spiritual law of restitution at work here. In the Sacrament of Confession, the penitent receives a penance for his sins after having been absolved of them. In the case of Onesimus, while the Sacrament of Baptism would have absolved him of all traces of the original sin and those committed since his birth, this did not cancel the debt that he owed to Philemon. As a new Christian who was still a worldly slave, Onesimus was obligated to make right the wrong that he had done as much as it was humanly possible. He was obligated to return to his master and to correct the wrong that he had done to him.

In verse 13, Paul stated, "I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel." These words indicate two things to Philemon. First of all, the service of the slave Onesimus had been commendable. Secondly, Philemon was indebted to St. Paul who was his spiritual father. Since Philemon was not available to assist Paul in his needs, Onesimus was the next best choice. Now, such flattery must have certainly raised the eyes of Philemon. If he was proud of having St. Paul as his spiritual father, which I am sure that he was, how much more would he have been proud to be able to provide a slave to serve an apostle who was known throughout the land.

In verse 14, we read, "but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced." While Paul would have liked to keep Onesimus as his servant, he could not do so without the knowledge and permission of Philemon. Nor could he force his kindness upon him. Whatever would take place in the future, it had to be with the consent of the master.

In verse 15, Paul says, "Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever." While hinting that he would have liked to have Onesimus continue to work with him, St. Paul recognized the master's right to his slave.

Throughout this Letter of St. Paul to Philemon, we see spiritual wisdom at work through the Spirit of Christ. We see "that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." [Rom. 8:28] Philemon may have been bitter over the loss of his slave. Now he was about to be tested to see how he would welcome Onesimus back. Onesimus may have thought he was gaining his worldly freedom. By running away, he became a slave of Christ, being indebted to the Lord forever for his salvation.

In verse 16, we read, "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother - especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." Onesimus was no longer a slave but a brother in Christ, an adopted son of God through the Sacrament of Baptism. [Rom. 8:15] Both, Philemon and Onesimus, as brothers to the Lord Jesus, have come to know their obligations towards each other as master and slave. [Col. 3:22-4:1; Eph. 6:5-9] As a convert, Onesimus was now a better person than he was before. What Philemon was receiving was a greater gift from God than he enjoyed before, not just a slave, but a brother in the Lord. The fear of the slave towards his master was being replaced by love.

In verse 17, St. Paul asked Philemon to welcome Onesimus in the same way as if it was he, St. Paul, appearing at his door. If Philemon regards Paul as a member of the Body of Christ, then he has to receive Onesimus on the same basis. This is not implying that Onesimus should be treated as a member of the family without obligation to perform his duties, but rather that he should continue to serve Philemon by living his faith in Christ.

The message from today's Gospel is "the cost of being a disciple." Such demands total dedication. [Lk. 14:26, 33-5] For some time now, large crowds had been travelling with Jesus. [Lk. 14:25] The time had now arrived for the Lord Jesus to sift those who were truly committed from those who were not. Now was the time to see who was ready to deny himself, even to the point of death for Jesus.

To discern the spirits, Jesus presented two parables. He compared the Christian life to a building project and to warfare. In the first parable, Jesus related that before someone builds a tower, he sits down and calculates the cost. If he does not have enough wealth to finish the tower, in all wisdom, he does not begin the project. Otherwise, the project will come to an end before it is completed and everyone will laugh at the builder. So it is with disciples!

In the second parable, Jesus said that a king going to war against forces that are far more superior than his, must carefully calculate the cost. He must carefully consider his chances of winning the battle. If he does not have any chance or the risk is too high, he must surrender unconditionally. So it is with Christian discipleship. A disciple cannot serve two masters. He must chose to either commit himself or to withdraw himself. He cannot stand halfway between both sides. He cannot be lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. If he attempts to do so, on Judgment Day, the Lord God will spit him out of His mouth. [Rev. 3:15-6]

Counting the cost is a very important factor when it comes to conversion. The potential convert must decide if he will receive the Sacrament of Baptism as a condition of his membership in the Body of Christ, the invisible Kingdom of God on earth. He must decide if afterwards, he will receive the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist on a regular basis to maintain his righteousness in the eyes of the Lord God. He must decide if he is prepared to commit his living faith in Christ on a daily basis until the end. He must carefully consider all the factors related to conversion and living one's faith as expected by God and the Church.

A true disciple must forsake all to follow Jesus. He must love Jesus above all others. When Jesus said that His disciples must "hate father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself," [Lk. 14:26] this passage must be taken in context with Matthew 10:37-8. There we read, "Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me."

When Luke refers to a disciple taking up the cross, he uses the words "carry his cross." [Lk. 14:27] The Greek word for "to carry" is "bastazo." This is the same word that Luke used to refer to Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary. [Lk. 23:26] As such, Luke literally expected the disciples of Jesus to follow Him in His sufferings and death.

Finally my brothers and sisters in Christ, true discipleship is to commit onself to a life of self-renunciation. It is to embrace suffering, persecution, obedience, servitude and humility, all for the love of Christ. When such has been accomplished, it can be said that the believer has been saved by wisdom, by the Holy Spirit who has taught him and guided him step by step towards salvation and the eternal Kingdom of God.

创建时间:2019-8-9 0:00:00    发布人:cczj