Week 32 of the Year, Cycle II, Thursday
Have him back, not as a slave any more, but as a dear brother.
I am so delighted, and comforted, to know of your love; they tell me, brother, how you have put new heart into the saints.
Now, although in Christ I can have no diffidence about telling you to do whatever is your duty, I am appealing to your love instead, reminding you that this is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains; I mean Onesimus. He was of no use to you before, but he will be useful to you now, as he has been to me. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self.
I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord.
So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me; but if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, then let me pay for it. I am writing in my own handwriting: I, Paul, shall pay it back – I will not add any mention of your debt to me, which is yourself. Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; put new heart into me, in Christ.
V. The word of the Lord. R. Thanks be to God.