No Longer A Slave

By Greg Swiderski

Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 21):
Acts 10:25-48
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

The full text of the readings can be found here.

In this Sunday's gospel John writes about a change in relationship: I no longer call you slaves, but friends. Most translations soften the “s” word to servants. The original Greek is “doulos”. Slaves is the more accurate appellation; it is the most often Greek used throughout the Christian scriptures. It refers to a "qualified sense of subjection." (Strong's Concordance)

Most of us have not been slaves, and have little family history of such a demeaning experience as would our African American friends.

Still we might ask ourselves if we are truly free. When a couple prepares for their marriage they are asked if they are entering this marriage freely. Of course, most respond in the affirmative. We do not have arranged marriages. Only later do we learn that some got married to get out of the house; some realized that they were getting beyond the age to have children and so needed to get married soon; some are pregnant and feel obligated. On the stories go.

I need to ask myself when do my compulsions overwhelm or control my rational thinking. Why do I keep buying books even though I do not read the ones which I already have? Why do I purchase candles for ritual or personal use and yet, so rarely use them? Does the voice of my critical parent still speak when I hear someone criticize me? In short, how free am I? How many seemingly unseen and unknown forces control my actions? Am I a doulos: subject to powers which I may not even acknowledge?

During compline, the formal evening prayer, the church over and over again repeats and asks us to internalize the Lukan words uttered by Simeon, “Now you may dismiss your servant in peace.” His words remind us of a valuable sentiment: we are not in control, and death may visit us during sleep.

Could we begin each day repeating over and over again, for we so easily forget, today's gospel: I am no longer a slave, but have entered into a sacred, enduring relationship in love?

Rumi, the mystical Suffi poet put it thus:

Some Kiss We Want

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of

spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling! At

night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its

face against mine. Breathe into
me. Close the language-door and

open the love-window. The moon
won't use the door, only the window.