In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember Apostle Onesimus of the Seventy and Bishop of Byzantium today. Apostle Onesimus of the Holy Seventy, pray for us!
Apostle Onesimus was a servant of Saint Philemon of Colossae, a Christian from a distinguished family. The saint ran away from the home of Philemon after committing an offense and ran to Rome, but was jailed as a runaway slave. The saint met the Holy Apostle Paul in prison, and learned about the Truth and was baptized, while serving the Holy Apostle Paul like a son. The Apostle Paul wrote to St Philemon with a letter of paternal love, asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to accept him like a brother. St Philemon forgave St Onesimus when he read Apostle Paul’s letter, and sent St Onesimus back to Apostle Paul to assist the Holy Apostle once again. Eventually, St Onesimus was consecrated as the Bishop of Gaza, and he preached far and wide the Gospel of Christ, and eventually took the seat in Ephesus (mentioned by father among the saints, St Ignatius the God-Bearer). St Onesimus was beaten with stones and beheaded in 109 AD.
Apostle Onesimus showed us that all of us are prone to spiritual failures, and yet, God’s Mercy does not forsake us as long as we make a genuine attempt to limp or crawl back to God (Hebrews 13:5). God will keep trying to reconcile us back to Him, as long as we open our senses to embrace His Will and to listen intently to His commands (1 John 1:8-2:6). We must be awake (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
Physical sleep is akin to nourishment. It allows us to rest and repair itself when we slow down from the daily activities.
And yet, spiritual sleep is different from physical sleep. Spiritual sleep betrays us to sink into a bed of stupor, so that we slowly become numb to the awakening to the Gospel of Christ, and His salvation to us. We read this reminder as we reflect on Proverbs 6:4-11.
What then is spiritual sleep? It is when we are deep in the world, indulging in our passions, indulging in the worldly activities, indulging in food and drink, indulging in material pursuits, indulging in our own vainglory pursuits of career and achievement, indulging in adding feathers to our caps, indulging in the adulation of others. All these indulgence dulls us, numbs us, cripples us, so that eventually, we no longer remember or care for our first and last objective in life – walking towards God.
We are reminded of Christ our Lord as Judge when he returns, and we do not know when (St Mark 13:31-14:2). The Scriptures too remind us to stay awake and pray, for prayer and repentance are our means to stay awake and receive reconciliation and healing from God.
Therefore, as Christians, we need to wake from our stupor and sleep, as we reflect upon Isaiah 60:1-5. We are to arise, and embrace the glory of our Lord upon the world, even as the world slips into a stupor and is immersed into darkness of its own.
As Christians, we need to defend ourselves against our own passions to only find rest and shelter with Christ our Lord. As Christians, we need to break our egos into pieces and return as little children to God, through continuing repentance and humble prayers with our tears. And always remember the most brilliant declaration of our faith, the Sign of the Cross, which is our bodily profession of faith in Christ our Lord.
Whenever we can, make the Sign of the Cross, cry out to our Lord and Savior, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Mark 13:31-14:2
1 John 1:8-2:6