November 10, 2016
“I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.” -from today's first reading from the letter of St. Paul to Philemon
The words above come from Saint Paul’s letter to Philemon, in which he pleads for a slave to be welcomed back to his master’s service. Paul doesn’t merely tell Philemon, “Here, you can have this.” He expressly tells him that he is sending his own heart. Those words reveal the closeness and the tenderness that Paul feels for Onesimus, a runaway slave who converted to Christianity by following Paul. Onesimus could have remained with Paul and grown in faith and virtue, which might have been easier and more pleasing, but Paul knew he belonged to another. God uses the selfless love of a lonely prisoner to turn more hearts to Him and to build up His Church.
Paul’s words stuck with me today because of something I saw this weekend: a mother who, after much refusing, consented to the baptism of her children. Whatever her motives, which could well have been the end of her family’s nagging, she gave up her notions of what she thought she wanted for her children and allowed the reality of who they are guide her heart. In that moment, she truly relinquished her death grip on her own ideas and gave her little ones over to God, who made them. It wasn’t fancy – it happened in the bathroom with tap water in front of three witnesses in pajamas – but it was her greatest act of motherly love.
Sometimes it’s the hardest to love those closest to us. We want them to conform to our plans, to be who we think they should be, to cater to our needs, to be there (or rather RIGHT HERE) for us. But they're not made for that. The people we love are gifts from God, and they may work wonders in our lives, but they are not gifts to be kept. These gifts are to be tenderly placed back in the arms of Jesus Christ by our prayers and by our love. No one can teach us this better than our Blessed Mother, who could have whispered in prayer Saint Paul’s words from today’s readings. No amount of trying could have made Jesus hers, so she willingly sent her Son, her own flesh, her dearest creature for whom she had lived her whole life, back to her Lord.
I will pray that God move our hearts to love selflessly and without pretense, that those whom we love might be ever less ours and ever more His.
Pier Giorgio Frassati, most selfless friend, pray for us!