Another issue on which I think we can say that God stands firm is slavery. There seems to be no case in which slavery is acceptable. Holding a person against their will goes against the dignity of the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God. It goes against "love your neighbor as yourself." By its very definition it goes against free will.
No doubt we should consider the issue of Paul's writings about slavery. He speaks of slavery in various ways. Paul likes to contrast being slaves to God with slaves to sin. In Colossians 4 he urges slave owners to be fair to their slaves. Slave masters were to treat their slaves as God, the Supreme Master, would treat the owners. It is true, he does not condemn slavery outright, but he does expect slave owners to treat their slaves with respect and to set them free when possible (see Philemon). In Galatians 3:11 he declares that in the Kingdom there is no slave or free. Since we are trying to bring the Kingdom of God on earth, is this not the attitude we should take toward slavery? Today, modern societies have recognized that all forms of slavery are wrong whether it is the slavery of domestic workers, field hands, soldiers, or sex workers. So let us stand with God against slavery, against abusing people, against seeing others as inferior to ourselves.
For Reflection: Is there any way in which I have treated another person as a slave? Have I withheld wages? Have I coerced someone to do what I wanted? Have I failed to grant another freedom when I could have? Have I considered someone to be my inferior?
Let us pray. Jesus, I repent of all the ways in which I have participated in slavery and I ask you to forgive me. I stand with you now against slavery in all of its forms throughout the world. I stand with you in declaring an end to slavery. I want to be part of bringing your light to the darkness of this issue. Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus took all of our sins onto himself when he was crucified. Even though we had not been born yet, even though we had not sinned yet, he died for us (1 Peter 2:24). He forgave all of our sins at that time. St. Paul assures us, "He forgave us all our sins" (Colossians 2:13). Further, by his death he cancelled the penalty due to those sins which was our eternal death.
Jesus took on himself our sins, our hatred, our cruelty to one another. He also took on what others have done to us - the injustices, the theft, the cursing. He accepts the garbage of the abuser and the hurt of the one who was abused.
These assurances from Peter and Paul are past tense. Already done. But we have to appropriate them in our lives. We have to admit our sins to God and accept the forgiveness that Jesus offers. Then we need to let go of the sin, the guilt, the shame, the hurt. We can trust God with it and not hang on to it. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). If we hang on to these things, we deny that Jesus was capable then and still is capable now of saving us. He won the victory.
For Reflection: Have I truly admitted my sins and accepted forgiveness for them? Am I hanging on to the guilt, the shame or the hurt?
Let us pray. Jesus, I realize now that I've been hanging on to the guilt and the hurt. You are more than capable of carrying these, so I give them to you. I don't want them any more. I want to take a victory lap with you.
We were talking about the apostle Paul and his lists of good and bad habits and attitudes. He speaks of "putting on" the good and "taking off" the old. One good activity he mentions is to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16).
I teach courses online in various theological subjects. Several of the courses are on Scripture. The students often lament that they don't have time to fit more Bible reading into their lives. Many people don't seem to know that you can now listen to the Bible on your smart phone or tablet. The Bible is on CD in several formats - with or without background music, in dramatic readings or with only one narrator. So, I think that if we want to fit more Scripture into our day, we can. Listening to it while we are driving or traveling or exercising may not be prime time but it is good time and can be one way of letting the Word enter into us more frequently.
For reflection: Am I getting as much time in with God's word as I would like? If not, what can I do to change it?
Let us pray. "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:9-11)
In his letters, St. Paul is fond of providing lists of bad things to avoid and good things to do. He also is quite clear that our old rebellious nature died when we were baptized. Speaking for myself, it does not always seem that way. I think I'm just as temped to do things on the bad list as I would have been without baptism - but it's hard to know for sure. I've been baptized a long time.
When writing to the Colossians, Paul tells them that the old rules - don't do this, stay away from that - simply don't work and never did (2:20-23). Instead, since we have been baptized into Christ's death and raised with his resurrection, we should change our mindset. Change what we think about. Put off the old and clothe ourselves with the new ways of Christ. In baptism, this is symbolized by putting on a white garment. And what does this white garment represent? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgiveness, peace and thankfulness (3:1-15).
Some years ago I asked a young boy, who had just been baptized and had on his white garment, what did it mean when the pastor told him to bring it "unstained" to the judgment seat of heaven. He said, "Don't get mustard on it."
For reflection: How is my white garment looking?
Let us pray. Jesus, would you give me a visual on how my white garment is looking today?
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We last reflected on Paul's words of praise about Jesus in Colossians 1:12-20. John has a similar reflection at the beginning of his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
Let's intersperse the two passages:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is the image of the invisible God.
He was with God in the beginning. He is the firstborn over all creation. Through him all things were made, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. He is the firstborn from among the dead. God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.
For reflection: What does it mean that Jesus is God made visible? Adam and Eve had spoken to God face-to-face, as had Moses. But now all could see Jesus, image of the invisible God. The fullness of God was in him.
Let us pray. Invisible made visible, show yourself to me today. Let me see your face.
Let us give thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share the lot of the saints in light.
He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities. All were created through him; all were created for him.
He is before all else that is. In him everything continues in being.
It is he who is head of the body, the church. He who is the beginning, the first-born of the dead, so that primacy may be his in everything. It pleased God to have all his fullness reside in him and, by means of him, to reconcile everything in his person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:12-20)
For reflection: St. Paul gives us this great hymn of praise of Jesus. Let us choose one phrase or sentence to think about and let it dwell within us for a day or two.
Paul's letters allow us a glimpse into his prayer life. In his letter to the Colossians, he tells them that he thanks God the Father for them when he prays because "we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints" (Col 1:3-4). He goes on to say that he is "asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (verse 9). Then Paul goes on to tell of the result he expects to see from his prayers: that they "live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power . . . (having) great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father" (verses 10-11). Paul prays a short prayer, expecting great results.
For reflection: Am I praying this way for other people? Who needs this kind of prayer? My family? My pastor?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for (my pastor), for his/her great faith and love for the community. I ask you to fill him/her with the knowledge of your will and that you bless him/her with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.