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Whatsoever is Holy on the Memorial of St. Leo the Great

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We have a tendency to pull what we want to hear from Sacred Scripture. Today, Paul is gentle with his words, but he does not say what the reader expects.

You have a slave. I want him freed.

That’s probably how I would have written it. But not St. Paul. He’s old now. Perhaps he has mellowed with some age. Still, his words are not to be ignored, even though they are given with a spoonful of sugar. I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love…

And so, the slave is sent back to Philemon with a request from St. Paul. That you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man in the Lord.

What hard words do we need to hear today and how might those words come with a spoonful of sugar?

Perhaps this:

I have experienced much joy and encouragement, because it is possible for the first time since 1973 that the unborn may once again be protected by the highest court in our land and the right to religious freedom may be strengthened in a land that was built on this firm conviction.

And now, I send to you some issues I also love. Things that must not be forgotten. I request it with love for you know The Lord secures justice for the oppressed…sets captives free…raises up those who were bowed down…protects strangers. The fatherless and the widow he sustains…

(From the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm)

So, be a both/and people. Rejoice in the good, hope in the promise of help for the unborn and protection from infringement on religious freedom and the convictions of dear ones like Little Sisters of the Poor.

But do not forget the widow and orphan among you. Continue to work for justice for the oppressed.

In this way, dear Philemon, you will gain a brother rather than a returned slave.

You will be pleasing to the Lord – who is pleased with you in many ways already.

For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.

(From the Gospel Reading)

And God is asking you to be a both/and people. Let that light shine in the darkness.

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