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Homily for 3/3/13 - PS - Repentance

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 15:11-32 These preparatory Sundays before Lent help us to identify and understand the tools that we will need as we enter our Lenten journey in a couple
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2013
      Luke 15:11-32

      These preparatory Sundays before Lent help us to identify and understand
      the tools that we will need as we enter our Lenten journey in a couple
      of weeks. Last week we began our preparation with the parable of the
      publican and Pharisee in which we saw the image of the publican’s
      humility and repentance. Today we have another parable, that of the
      Prodigal Son. In this parable we are again given two contrasting persons
      to consider – the elder son and the younger, “prodigal” son. Both are
      described for us in relation to their father, who provides for both
      alike. The elder son is loyal and obedient to his father, never
      questioning the father’s way of life, conforming his own life to that
      life that he shares with his father and completely satisfied with what
      his father provides.

      The younger son, however, is constantly looking for something new,
      something different, always dissatisfied with what his father has
      provided for him. This dissatisfaction finds expression finally when the
      younger son asks his father to give him that which will be his in his
      inheritance. The father is the source of all that either of his sons
      possess and he gives to them both freely according to their needs. The
      younger son, asks now not for what he needs but for all that to which he
      believes that he is entitled – his inheritance. His father was under no
      obligation to fulfill that request, for indeed an inheritance passes
      only upon the death of the one giving the inheritance, but out of his
      love for his son indulged his request. The younger son, took what was
      “his” and began to use it as he saw fit – however that meant that he
      used it unwisely to indulge his passions and desires rather than to use
      it profitably. As a result of misusing that which had been bestowed upon
      him, he soon squandered all that he had and was left with nothing.

      Having nothing, the younger son was left to fend for himself and not
      having made any preparations at all for this eventuality, he ended up
      with the lowest possible job – feeding swine. Even this was not enough
      and out of desperation he began to eat the food that he was giving to
      the swine. He had fallen to the level of a beast and was, in effect, no
      longer even a human, let alone his father’s son. Seeing the depths to
      which he had fallen he had two choices, either to lose all hope and fall
      further into despair and hopelessness or to repent. The prodigal son
      chose to repent, to turn his back on all his foolishness, on all his
      self centeredness, on all his pride. Having repented, he turned toward
      the only source of life that ever remained to him – to his father. He
      left behind everything to return to his father and humble himself asking
      not to be a son, but simply to be a servant.
      In response to his son’s repentance the father not only received him
      into the household, but restored him to the original place as his son.
      The father provided again for his son all that he lacked and rejoiced at
      his return.

      This parable describes for us our own relationship to God. He is our
      Father – the source of all that we are and have. He gives to us freely
      everything that we need for our lives and for our salvation. But, it is
      up to us to use it properly, however, like the prodigal we often waste
      what is given to us and end up bankrupt, spiritually impoverished, with
      nothing to show for what we have been given. The very first hymn of
      Vespers for the Prodigal Son expresses this well, “I was entrusted with
      a sinless and living land, but I sowed the ground with sin and reaped
      with a sickle the ears of slothfulness; in thick sheaves I garnered my
      actions, but winnowed them not on the threshing floor of repentance. …”
      This is echoed again moments later with the lament, “ Of what great
      blessing in my wretchedness have I deprived myself! … I have wasted the
      riches that were given to me … Alas, unhappy soul! Thou art henceforth
      condemned to the eternal fire. …” These hymns express exactly the place
      in which we find ourselves.

      The key to getting out of this place of despair is repentance and it is
      indeed repentance that is the theme of this week’s preparation. “
      Repentance is often simply identified as a cool and ‘objective’
      enumeration of sins and transgressions, as the act of ‘pleading guilty’
      to a legal indictment. Confession and absolution are seen as being of a
      juridical nature. But something very essential is overlooked – without
      which neither confession nor absolution have any real meaning or power.
      This ‘something’ is precisely the feeling of alienation from God, from
      the joy of communion with Him, from the real life as created and given
      by God. … to realize suddenly that I have defiled and lost my spiritual
      beauty, that I am far away from my real home, my real life, and that
      something precious and pure and beautiful has been hopelessly broken in
      the very texture of my existence. [This] is repentance, and therefore it
      is also a deep desire to return, to go back … I have received from God
      wonderful riches … life in Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the
      …eternal kingdom … All this I have lost, all this I am losing all the
      time, not only in particular ‘sins’ and ‘transgressions’, but in the sin
      of all sins: the deviation of my love from God.” (Fr. Alexander
      Schmemann, Great Lent) True repentance is the realization, the deep
      feeling that I have separated myself from God, I have alienated myself
      from Him and in doing so have cut off everything good and desirable that
      I have ever had. With this realization, true repentance is then the
      desire to return to the life that God has provided for me – it is a
      realization not only that I have erred, but that my errors have cost me
      everything that God has given me. My only hope is to return to God, who
      is the source of all that is good, and to beg Him to take me back,
      somehow, some way. This is what repentance means.

      Great Lent, with the discipline of self denial, pulls away the facades
      that we have erected to hide the truth that we are separated from God,
      that we have pulled away from Him and have squandered and wasted all
      that He has given us. In the course of Great Lent, we will truly see the
      extent and depth of our fall and we will see that we have become like
      the beasts, wallowing in the mud of our passions, seeking to find
      satisfaction in the bestial slops that serve as food for the swine.
      At this point, we, like the prodigal, are face with a choice. We can
      either descend into hopelessness and despair, grasping for what little
      we can find in the food of the beasts. Or, we can reject the bestial way
      of life and turn again to our Father, our God. We can repent, turning
      away from our former way of life and turn again towards God. Great Lent
      is a time when all the pretense is swept away and we are faced with the
      reality of our separation from God.

      But all is not lost, for the same hymn in Vespers which describes our
      loss continues to describe to us also our hope, “But I beg Thee, my God,
      … with the wind of Thy loving-kindness, winnow the chaff of my works,
      and grant to my soul the corn of forgiveness; shut me in Thy heavenly
      storehouse and save me.” See, here, we are told that God can take even
      the results of our wasteful lives and with the “wind of (His)
      loving-kindness” find within the “chaff of my works” the valuable kernel
      of the “corn of forgiveness”. He takes even the worst of our sins and
      sorts out from them something more valuable the all of the dross that is
      cast away – a kernel of forgiveness which redeems even our greatest loss.

      The key here is to truly repent. Don’t just go through the forms of
      listing all your misdeeds and saying you’re sorry (although this is a
      good place to start). Rather search your heart and experience the depth
      of your fall, the absolute certainty that you have separated yourself
      from God. You have alienated yourself from God and no longer have any
      connection to Him. Once you see this; once you feel this, then the
      possibility for the desire to return is born within you. That is what
      Great Lent is about – it is the journey of the prodigal to turn away
      from sin and all its effects and begin the journey back to our God and
      Father. He stands watching for us, waiting with open arms to welcome us
      home, back into His embrace. All that’s needed is repentance, all that’s
      needed is to recognize that you have sinned and to turn your back on
      that sin and begin the journey back to God. Seeing you coming, He,
      Himself will run to you and embrace you and lead you back into the
      heavenly 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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