Day 30 - Consolation
I give thanks to my God, all the time making mention of you in my prayers, when I hear of your love and your faith which you have in the Lord Jesus and towards all the saints, so that the solidarity of your faith may become operative, in the knowledge of all that is good in us, [turning us] to Christ. For I have much joy and comfort through your love; because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
St Paul is probably still in prison when he writes this letter, his shortest, to Philemon. Fr Nick King calls it a ‘postcard’. Philemon is a wealthy man, a ‘pater familias’, the father of a large household and extended family over which he has total authority and power. Some scholars argue that he may even have been a bishop in the embyronic church. One of his slaves has run away, Onesimus, and sought refuge in a Christian community that Paul had founded – or ‘seeded’, as modern Evangelicals may say. This radical tradition of hospitality is a sign of authentic Christianity, whether it be to runaway slaves or refugees. Here, Paul is asking Philemon to witness to his conversion by forgiving Onesimus and treating him as an equal in Christ’s eyes. He trusts in him to do this, because he has demonstrated his ability to love. Paul realises this is an unconventional request, so reminds him of the effect of how he has deployed his power so far – by refreshing the hearts of the saints. Refreshing the heart is a lovely way of describing the effects of consolation. What refreshes your heart so you can love in a deeper way?
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, a river of Divine Mercy,
take my heart and fill it with your consolation,
so that I may love more. It is only in you that the wounds in my heart can be transformed.
As the spear from the centurion opened your side
so that we could see your human and divine heart –
help me to point my friends to your heart, too. Amen