The Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The divine Fathers appointed the parable of the Prodigal Son to be read for the Sunday following that of the Publican and the Pharisee for the following reason:

Many of those people who are given over from an early age to self-indulgence and licentiousness, upon falling into an abyss of evils, come to a place of despair (which, according to the Holy Fathers, is the result of arrogance). This despair deters them from turning their attention to the pursuit of virtue, and instead leads them to fall into the same and even worse evils as before, since they think that there must be no mercy for such sinners as themselves.

Because of this, the Holy Fathers and Mothers, demonstrating their paternal and maternal loving-kindness and compassion for such people, and desiring to draw them away from despair, appointed this Gospel reading for today.

Let us see now, who are these two sons spoken of in today's Gospel reading? The one represents the righteous, and the other represents sinners. The elder one always keeps the commandments of God, always does good, and never wanders far off from his God and Father. But the younger son is the one who loved sin, and who through his disgraceful actions found himself far from God's companionship. Through his dissoluteness he utterly frittered away the blessings which God had bestowed upon him. Because of this, the image of God in him is no longer preserved intact. He follows temptation and by indulging in his pleasures accomplishes the desires of the evil one. He is not able to satisfy his passion, for sin is something which is not satisfied with temporary pleasure. Indeed, sin is exactly like the husks, the food for pigs, which the Prodigal was eating; for at first the husks may have some sweetness, but quickly they leave in one's mouth the taste of straw.

But finally, when with effort he came to himself, realizing that he was only destroying himself by forsaking virtue, the Prodigal went back again to his father, saying, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and I am not worthy to be called your son.” The Father then received the penitent, not reviling him in the least, but falling on his neck and embracing him, thus showing him divine compassion. And he gave him a robe (representing Holy Baptism) and a ring (representing the seal and earnest of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit which is received in Chrismation). He also gave him sandals, so that his steps in relation to God would no longer be wounded by the noetic serpents and scorpions, but rather that he would now b able to tread on their heads, in accordance with the words of Scripture, “Behold, I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions.” After this, the Father, moved with exceeding joy, killed for this son the fatted calf. This symbolizes the Only-Begotten Son, Who gives to the penitent His own flesh to eat, and His own blood to drink.

The elder son is astonished and stunned by the utterly boundless compassion of God the Father, and from his shock and dismay, he complains, as we have heard in the parable. But God the Father, who ever loves mankind, in order to soothe and quiet him, responds with sweet words, saying: “My child, you are always here and you are with me inseparably; and all that I have is yours. But it was completely fitting that we should rejoice and be glad, because this my son and your brother, who was dead in sin, now lives again through repentance. He was lost, inasmuch as he had wandered far from me through his foul actions; but now he is found, inasmuch as I myself sought after him through my compassion and goodness of heart.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters, we have entered a time in the life of the Church when we are asked once again to examine ourselves and our inner person. We have all, through our foul actions, like the Prodigal Son, been ashamed before God and in our conscience. The time of the Lenten struggle has been given to us as a time of self-examination, a time of repentance, which means “change of mind.” We hear the word repentance so often, but sometimes it is only when we feel truly disgusted with ourselves that we are able to truly change, to turn from what he have been doing, to something more than what our weakened eyes have been able to see because of our sin, which has darkened our vision.

Even though it is difficult, let us try not to be discouraged. To be discourage is our defeat, because when we are defeated, we don't act, we give up. Rather, let us confess openly and let it sting! We cannot be healed without this sting and, in the mean time, truly the enemy is defeated when we confess openly and honestly. We have nothing to lose but our sin. And when we do so, our inner life will become itself more honest and clean. I read the other day a quote from Archimandrite Sophrony that I would like to share with you. It was so encouraging to me and I hope it is for you as well:

“Everything that you gain in your inner battles will be reflected in your life in God. Struggle against every passion, which arouses in you critical thoughts about others. Do not accept what the enemy suggests to you against someone who is unjust towards you. Whether you are alone in your room or in company, every critical thought, every negative inner movement, create a crack in your spiritual fortress and in that of your community. No thought is born or passes without consequence. With good thoughts, you will be able to see in every person that you meet someone very beloved. With negative thoughts, on the contrary, your facial expression and your psychological energies will spoil your relationships and affect the environment around you. When grace is with us, we do not see the defects of others; we only see the sufferings and the love our brethren.”

So, we have a time given to us in the Lenten journey to struggle with our inner selves. We have an opportunity to strive for grace again. We have an opportunity to challenge our thoughts which we often don't do. Seize the moment dear brothers and sisters! The Holy Saints of our Church know what we need and they know the timing! The time is here; let us respond rightly!

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers and Mothers, may we have the grace to respond as did the Prodigal Son – with repentance.