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Homily for 2/24/08 - PS - God's love and repentance

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 15:11-32 This parable of the prodigal son reminds us of two very important truths which we will carry with us throughout Great Lent. The first is the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 24, 2008
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      Luke 15:11-32

      This parable of the prodigal son reminds us of two very important truths
      which we will carry with us throughout Great Lent. The first is the
      great love of God for us and the second is the absolute necessity of
      repentance. There are, of course, many more lessons and truths that are
      contained within this simple story, but these two are the ones which we
      need to be sure to carry with us throughout our Lenten journey.

      In one of the prayers during the Liturgy, the priest says, “Thou didst
      call us from non-being into being, and when we had fallen away, Thou
      didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou
      hadst brought us up to heaven, and hadst bestowed upon us Thy kingdom
      which is to come.” This is the love for us that is expressed in this
      parable. God, out of the abundance of His love, created us that we might
      love Him and that He might love us. In his love, He set before us a
      great destiny, that we might ascend to heaven to be with Him that we
      might live in His Kingdom. In order to accomplish this, He created us in
      His image and His likeness which enables us to become like Him and to be
      united to Him. This is the first expression of His love for us. However,
      we ourselves turn aside from the path of salvation and went astray,
      following our own passions and desires and forgetting the great purpose
      for which we were created. Even our rebellion does not deter God’s great
      love for us, for as the prayer says, He raised us up again and
      constantly does everything possible for us so that we might be brought
      by Him into heaven and receive His kingdom. This simple phrase – “did
      not cease to do all things (for us)” – expresses God’s love for us.
      There is nothing that He would not do for us – there is nothing that He
      did not already do for us to restore us to the participation in His
      love. God went so far as to deign to take flesh and become incarnate so
      that He might reveal Himself to us. This act of Divine Love was for the
      simple reason that we had forgotton Him and no longer knew Him. Beyond
      this, though, He endured suffering and death and He descended into Hades
      and defeated the evil one who held us captive so that He might again
      restore us to the freedom to follow Him into His Kingdom. God did all
      this – and more – that we might return to Him. This is the depth of His
      love for us.

      This great and unlimited love God bestows upon us even while we are
      still in rebellion. When we become aware of that love, it elicits a
      response in our heart, a desire to be restored to the One Who loves us.
      Our separation from God is not established or even maintained by God,
      but it is wholly a product of our own nature. We are separated from God
      because of our sin, and because we love our sin more than God, we remain
      separated from Him. God has done all things for us that we might be
      united with Him, now the only barrier lies with us. We have to repent;
      we have to turn away from our sin and turn to God. This is the turning
      moment dramatized for us in the parable of the prodigal son, the moment
      of repentance. When the young man who had left his father’s house and
      gone his own way finally realized that his path had led to disaster, he
      then turned his thoughts to his father. There were many things that
      stood in the path of deliverance from his self imposed torment and
      reunion with his father. There was a great distance – he had in fact
      strayed a long way. There was his lack of any resources – he had
      squandered all that he had on satisfying himself and there was nothing
      left. There was also his pride – he had built a wall with it between
      himself and his father’s life. To return seemed impossible at first
      glance. The first part was to set aside his pride – to relinquish all
      the rights and privileges that his pride had built up. And even beyond
      that, to destroy the basis of his pride. This the young man did when he
      realized that he was no longer worthy to be called the son of his
      father, and set himself as no better than the servants. He gave up every
      shred of self pride and gained instead a humble heart. Humility is the
      beginning of repentance. After that he overcame his lack of resources by
      admitting that he had nothing and throwing himself entirely on his
      father’s mercy. “I will go to my father and I will say … make me as one
      of your hired servants” He no longer could rely upon his own resources,
      his own strength, his own abilities. When he relinquished his pride, he
      also gave up all self dependence. Now he was relying only upon what his
      father would provide for him and he was content with even the smallest
      portion of that. Finally he had to overcome the distance. Once he
      decided to return to his father’s house, the young man was not magically
      transported to the gates, but rather he had to begin to walk. He walked
      away from his old life, the life of his rebellion and wastefulness, the
      life of self indulgence and self reliance. He walked in humility to his
      father, his only hope. In his actions we see the essence of repentance.

      Repentance means, literally, to “turn away from”. That is exactly what
      we must do in order to repent. We must turn away first from our pride,
      giving up not only the prideful ideas and images we have built for
      ourselves, but even the basis of our pride, that which is “naturally”
      ours. We approach God, not as His naughty child returning home, but
      rather relinquishing even that distinction, crying out with the
      realization that we are not worthy to be called His sons and daughters
      (and so restoring to us our birthright), but asking only for His mercy
      and compassion relinquishing even the “right” to be called the child of
      God. We must first and foremost turn away from our pride.

      In humility we must also turn away from our self reliance, our self
      dependence our self provision. We must realize that whatever we might
      have had, we have squandered and now we have nothing. We have no
      strength, no resources, no abilities, nothing. We have nothing to offer
      God and even more we have nothing with which to return to Him. We are
      entirely dependent upon God for even the slightest good thing in our
      lives. We must throw ourselves entirely into His hands. We can give to
      him only the mess that we have made of our lives trying to do things our
      way. We turn away even from our goals and our desires and embrace
      instead His purpose for us and His desire for us. All that before
      centered on our “self” now must center only upon God. Where before we
      were “self reliant” now we must be God reliant. Where before we had
      “self worth” now we must find our worth in God. Where before we had
      “self esteem” now we must find our “esteem” in God. Everything that was
      once “self” centered must now become God centered.

      Finally, our repentance demands that we take action. We must physically,
      emotionally, spiritually walk away from the old way of life. We must
      remove ourselves from the temptations, the way of life, the sinfulness,
      all those things which pulled us away from God. We must “repent” or
      “turn away from” those things and the life that we had and turn instead
      toward the life that God gives to us. If the young man had gained
      humility and seen his own deficit of any good thing and yet not taken
      the step to leave behind the pigsty – he would never have reached his
      father’s house. Repentance demands action, a change in our way of life,
      a change in who we are and what we do.
      The love of God is shown to us in the parable by the love of the Father
      who, when he saw his son afar off, ran to meet him and even while on the
      road embraced him and forgave him and clothed him and restored him to
      his household. God does not wait for us to come to Him, He only waits
      for that first action, that first movement and when He sees that we have
      turned towards Him, He comes to meet us and to walk with us and journey
      with us, doing all things until we should receive His Kingdom. Such is
      the great love of God for us that He eagerly anticipates our repentance
      and as soon as He sees us turn and take a step away from our old life
      and towards Him, He Himself rushes out to meet us and to bring us the
      rest of the way with His help. This is His great love for us.

      These two truths we must take with us into Great Lent. The love of God
      for us and the necessity of our own repentance. If we only repent and
      embrace the love of God for us, then we will have gained greatly during
      the Lenten journey. We need only to repent and God will not cease to do
      all things until He has brought us to heaven and bestowed upon us His
      Kingdom.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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