Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1
On my mom’s first visit to Immaculate Conception rectory, Fr. Eric said to her: "How does it feel to have a son who is a slave of the church?" The question startled her, and she really didn’t reply. It has caused me to reflect over the years on the nature of our life in Christ, on ministry and the reality of our freedom in Christ.
St. Paul knew how terrible human slavery could be in his time. As a Roman citizen, he knew how widespread it was….a slave was property, pure and simple. Many slaveowners worked their slaves to death. Others treated them more humanely and even allowed them to buy their freedom. As terrible as slavery was, Paul knew that slavery to sin was even worse. So he says in our reading today: "For freedom, Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." These words are echoed in his advice to Philemon, the owner of the slave Onesimus, who had run away. Paul wrote:" I know you ahve 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 much better than a slave, a dear brother (Philemon 1:15-16).
Slavery still exists in our day….people trapped in subhuman working and living situations. The slavery of sin still exists for many, through addiction to drugs or alcohol, the sins of social injustice and racism. The church’s mission continues the work of Jesus is breaking the bonds of slavery of all kinds. The church’s ministers in a special way share in the exhileration of people set free. As all Christians, they model themselves on Jesus, who though divine, "emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave."
An old folk song has the refrain: "It’s a long, long way to freedom." In Christ, we have the gift of freedom. Let us rejoice in it and share this gift with others!
Fr. Bob Bovenzi lives in Chicago.