The letter to Philemon is one of St. Paul’s 14 epistles. Philemon was a master to a slave named Onesimus. One day, Onesimus was tempted and stole money from Philemon and ran away to Rome, where he met St. Paul. St. Paul’s preaching moved him and caused him to feel sorry about what he did. He told St. Paul how he regrets stealing so St. Paul decided to write this letter to Philemon to tell him that Onesimus has repented and is now a follower of Christ. St. Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus and even offered to pay back all that Onesimus stole.
Philemon ended up forgiving Onesimus but Onesimus decided to return back to Rome to continue serving and preaching with St. Paul. He kept on preaching and baptizing even after St. Paul’s martyrdom and until his own martyrdom.
Onesimus committed a sin by stealing but he confessed to St. Paul and offered a repentance in the end. Onesimus even became a witness for God and earned a crown of martyrdom, going from a thieve to a saint. This teaches us that although we may fall and do some bad things, we should always get back up by confessing to Abouna and asking God for forgiveness. From this story, we can also learn that we need to forgive others as well. Philemon could have refused to accept Onesimus back but because of his Christly and brotherly love, he forgave him and no longer looked at him as a slave but as his brother in Christ. We should do the same because we are not perfect and we make mistakes, and just as God forgives us, we should forgive others (we pray this everyday in the “Our Father”).
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord (Philemon 15-16).