A Sermon on the Prodigal Son 2010 - By Metropolitan Moses
A Sermon on the Prodigal Son 2010
By Metropolitan Moses
In today’s parable our Savior depicts for us the free choices allowed every man and woman and how, if we go astray, our heavenly Father longingly awaits our return. In the person of the younger son we see a soul caught in the snare of sin and rebellion against the order of God. This is the origin of all sin. A young man desires to ignore his Father’s kindness and blessings and receive his inheritance out of due time and use it to satisfy his desires. Does this not remind you of our forefather Adam? Adam was given all, but, was forbidden to eat of fruit of the of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As we know from the commentaries of the Holy Fathers this restriction was set only for a time. If Adam waited, God would have blessed him to partake of that fruit.
So likewise this young man sought his inheritance improperly and out of season and simply used it for his own self-inflicted harm. Do we not see this today when young people choose to not first seek the blessing of God and live together as man and wife without the benefit of marriage?
The young man was led astray by his own wayward desires and the suggestions of the evil one, which lead him to separation from his Father’s house. These desires, according to the word of Saint John the Theologian are, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16)
In his delusion, the young man thought he would spend his inheritance and maintain a life of rich and luxurious dissipation, yet it was not long before he squandered all and fell into poverty. This poverty included a great void of spiritual emptiness. The husks of this wayward life could not fill his belly, that is, there was no real satisfaction or spiritual peace in his life. His life became a painful drudge and torment. Yet this pain was the beginning of a spiritual awakening. It is written that the young man “came to himself.” How did he come to himself? By remembering Who his Father is and from what real wealth he had fallen from. Man is an animal that has been given the gift of reason and free will and speech. We can choose to live like the lower animals or we can choose to remember the gift of sonship we have received from God.
The remembrance of His Father caused him to realize with bitterness how far he had fallen and straightway with pain of heart he humbled himself, saying, “I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19)
With a humble resolve he began to retrace his steps in order to return to his Father’s house. The word for repentance in Greek is metania, which signifies a complete turn around, a change of direction an opposite activity. “Repentance” is not a noun it is a verb. Repentance requires action. We can measure our repentance if we compare our actions to the actions of this repentant prodigal. Self-centeredness and self-love are barriers to repentance. Self-justification and laziness springs from this destructive form of self-love. How easy it is for us to simply say, “I have repented” and do nothing of any real significance towards our own spiritual healing. How easy it is to deceive ourselves into thinking we are repenting when that is not the case at all.
This prodigal lived a life of physical dissipation and when he ran out of money he experienced an involuntary asceticism, which began his spiritual therapy. To this he added humility and he began the long process of spiritual healing. He began to see how ungrateful and un-submissive he was to his Father and he resolved to abase himself and plead to be accepted back as a hired servant. There is much one can say about this. How many are those that become accustom to a position of notoriety and fall into sin, yet do not abase themselves and truly repent unto salvation because they choose to disregard the meaning of this parable.
As we know from the very words of our Savior Himself, if we imitate this young man and abase ourselves and entreat our heavenly Father we will be received and united to Him. The parables we have heard over the last two Sundays are vital and essential to our salvation. If we cannot learn to approach God with a humble heart drained of self-justification as did the Publican and if we do not learn that we must abase ourselves before God and engage in virtues that are the opposite of the sins that beset us, we cannot begin to make spiritual progress. These are the beginning steps in the spiritual life of return to our heavenly Father. The message of our Lord Himself in this parable is if we constrain ourselves to do these things we will be restored with the robe of the grace of baptism, the signet ring of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and sandals to tread on our common enemy, Satan.
Today’s parable concludes with something that we all need to ponder. When the older brother who was faithful and remained with his Father heard about his younger brother being received with love and that there was feasting and that for his sake they had slain the fatted calf, the older brother became indignant and would not go in. Then the Father came out and entreated the older son to come in and the virtuous son complained, saying, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and never did I transgress a commandment of thine; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast slain for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15: 29-30)
And the Father replied, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the love of God is incomprehensible! While we were sinners, our heavenly Father sent His Son to tell us of His love and to be slain and offered as food to whosoever desired to return to Him. The sons and daughters of Adam and Eve dwell in the shadow of sin and death. Our God calls us to return to Him! Beyond reason or anything we can put into words, the love of God is so great that He desires to grant all that would come unto Him to become members of the Body of Christ through baptism and partake of His Flesh and Blood through the Eucharist. All we need to do is repent. The human mind falters at this message, we can only understand these things through the gift of faith.
The parables of God are a source of many spiritual truths. We see the elder brother as a man who lived a life of virtue in close proximity to his Heavenly Father, just as there are many people who can be outwardly observed as members of the Church. Yet, even after dwelling so long with his Father, he was not like his Father. He lived with the God of love and did not learn to love like unto God. We can perform outward virtues of prayer, fasting, spiritual reading and almsgiving and still miss the mark by not conforming our minds and hearts to the God of love. Saint Paul, the chosen vessel, reveals the all-encompassing importance of the virtue of love in his Epistle to the Corinthians:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1Cor.13:1-3)
All of the God-illumined ascetics throughout the history of the Church emphasized that the first among the virtues is love. Yet, these same ascetics teach that it is the love of our enemies that sets us apart as Christians. Saint Justin Popovich wrote:
Prayer and fasting are not to be performed merely for the individual, or for one people, but for everyone and everything ("in all and for all"), for friends and enemies, for those who persecute us and those who put us to death, because that is how Christians are to be distinguished from the Gentiles (Mt. 5: 44-45).
--“The Inward Mission of our Church” By Saint Justin Popovich
Without the gift of God, such love is impossible. One must pray and entreat God in order to be given the ability to truly pray with love for one’s enemy. As Saint Silouan the Ascetic of Mount Athos wrote:
"The Lord is love; and He commanded us to love one another and to love our enemies; and the Holy Spirit teaches us this love.
The soul that has not come to know the Holy Spirit does not understand how it is possible to love one’s enemies, and will not receive this commandment; but in the Lord is pity for all men, and he who would be with the Lord must love his enemies.
…The man who has known the Lord through the Holy Spirit becomes like unto the Lord, as Saint John the Divine said: 'We shall be like Him: for we shall see Him as He is.' And we shall behold His glory.
Many numbers of people, you say, are suffering every kind of adversity and from evil men. But I entreat you: humble yourself beneath the strong Hand of God, and grace will be your teacher and you yourself will long to suffer for the sake of the love of the Lord. That is what the Holy Spirit, Whom we have come to know in the Church, will teach you.
…But the man who cries out against evil men, who does not pray for them, will never know the grace of God…"
“The Undistorted Image” by Archimandrite Sophrony p. 116
If the elder son entreated his heavenly Father for this gift, it would have been granted unto him and he would have partaken of the banquet of love upon the return of his wayward brother.
May God provide for you and your families that you progress in your understanding of the mysteries of love and repentance so that you might partake of the banquet of love in Christ Jesus Who came to be sacrificed for our love. Amen.
Go to Orthodoxyinfo.org for a wide variety of articles on the Faith