The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (15:11-32)
All of God’s activity in the world is focused on the salvation of humanity. The God who is love is the God who has sent His only begotten Son for us. This God has one great focus…each of us and our souls. Today’s parable is a glimpse into the mind of God and the way that He desires our fellowship and union with Him.
Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us this story about a man who had two sons. The younger son asked for his share of the inheritance from his father and his father agreed to divide out the sons portion and give it to him. We are amazed to find that the father gives this without arguing or hesitation.
We are also surprised to find that God wants to give us according to our hearts desire, just as the father gave to his son in this parable. But we must be careful here to ensure that the desires of our heart are truly good.
We notice that the son did not have anything in his own name, but wanted to take what was actually his father’s. We all act similarly to this young man.
We look at our lives and we often think that certain things are owed to us. We act as if everything that we desire is actually our birthright. This kind of feeling of entitlement is not a good thing. In fact it a sign of the ultimate act of rebellion against God.
We take what is not rightly ours and we consider it our own. We take what was not rightly ours and we forget the source from whom these blessings came. This is what the young son has done in this story and this is what we do with our lives.
It was only a matter of time before the young man ruined his life. He had everything that he could ever want or desire, or so he thought. But all of this was a temporary gain. He would lose it all in the blink of an eye and be back to square one as a young immature boy with nothing to his name. We do the same as this young man when we take what rightly belongs to the Lord and use it in whatever way we see fit, even in ways that are against God.
One example in our modern society is the argument around abortion. We are told that it is the woman’s right and the woman’s body. But all of this presupposes that God doesn’t exist, that we don’t belong to Him and don’t answer to Him.
We do the same in our day to day lives. We use our bodies and minds and lips and our energy, all of these things that are gifts from God, in ways that are not always pleasing to God.
Why do you exist?
Do you exist to serve yourself?
Do you exist to pass your time in comfort until you grow old and die?
You exist because God has breathed His life into you. He sustains each of us, every day, every hour, every moment of our lives and because of that we know that God has a purpose for your life. Each of you is important, each of you is a son or a daughter like this young man. And each of us is lost when we think that we can be clever enough to live on our own, even for a short time, independent of the Father.
The young man thought the same thing and soon he found himself without the friends and the parties and without a penny left to his name. He went to work for one of the people in the fields, feeding swine, and since the Jews considered pigs to be unclean, the Lord makes clear that this fellow had truly hit rock bottom. Only in this lowly position did his heart began to turn back to his father and to his home.
What was it that began the process of the turning of the heart?
It was his hunger, a lack of food.
Why do we fast to prepare for the Great Feast of Pascha (Easter)?
Because it is the hunger that brings us to our right mind and turns us back to God our Father, and to His house, which is the Church.
The young man fasted unwillingly and sometimes we too, for one reason or another, fast unwillingly. Here it is necessary to remark, that outward calamities are often sent by God to sinners in order to bring them to their senses. They are God’s call to repentance.
We, as Christians, also fast willingly due to the wisdom of the Church, because we want to hunger and thirst and desire after God and the shortcut to ardent desire and longing for God is to grow hungry. You see, Lent is not about getting God to change His mind about us; instead, it is about us changing our minds and lives in order to return to God.
Our bodies are closely tied to our salvation as well as our condemnation. Our life on earth is a time of preparation. We are preparing for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and for our own resurrection from the dead, and this resurrection is in order to stand before the throne of God and be judged for our deeds done in the body.
No amount of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will change anything about the Lord; but these tools are useful in helping us see the truth about our sinfulness, our fears, insecurities, resentments, and grudges, and in opening our lives to the mercy which Jesus Christ always extends to repentant sinners.
But we have to be careful here. Some of us hear words like “sinfulness” and “repentance” and immediately think of God as harsh, unforgiving, and out to punish us. We may be terrified of God and think that He wants us to be miserable. So we obsess about our failings and we judge ourselves, or perhaps others, as hopeless cases, and we end up taking the joy out of life.
The good news is that God did not create us for a joyless life of despair, but to share in the blessedness of His life. The eternal Son of God became one of us to heal our broken humanity and bring us into the joy of the Kingdom.
We pray, fast, give alms, and forgive our debtors as ways of embracing His healing, of accepting His gracious transformation of our lives.
Like the man in the pig sty, we also need to come to our senses, see the truth about God and ourselves and act accordingly. It is only our own stubborn refusal which holds us back from entering into the joy of the Lord.
So we prepare to take this time of Lent to do according to the words of the Apostle Paul and “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” 1 Cor 9:27 and
As we bring our bodies into subjection we find that our minds and heart will properly unite with the body and will not be improperly swayed and influenced by the desires of the body. We will be like the young man who after feeling true hunger, came to himself. He came to his right mind and turned his focus back to his father, he repented. As in this parable, there are no limits to our Lord’s mercy, no restrains on His compassion or forgiveness.
Great and Holy Lent is our time to repent and turn back to our Father. To understand that our desires are not filled by various things and material goods, not even with food!
Our deepest desires are met by God our Father who loves us and freely gives us all things that are good for us, all of which belong to Him. The father celebrated his sons return as if he had come back from the dead. Let us also come back from the dead by the grace of God. Let us turn from the death of our sins, our passions, our vices, and our earthly desires, to the resurrection of life in communion with God our Father.
We should have no fears about Him rejecting our repentance, no matter what we have done (or have not done). His desire is to restore us and to give us ALL that is His.
It is truly God’s pleasure to give you everything that is His and He has proven this by giving us the very life of His Son, Jesus Christ so that He might give us His divine life. At each Liturgy He gives us the medicine of immortality, His own divine life giving flesh and blood.
May we repent and come to our right minds; may we have our debts forgiven by Him as we forgive others who may have accumulated “debts” against us; may we be healed in both body and soul as we come into His Church, may we run towards the Father as did the prodigal son.
We will be surprised to see Him waiting for us and ready to embrace us, to love us and to bring us into His own house to enjoy a great feast together with Him.
To Him be the glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit AMEN.