• Gospel Reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! The parable that our Lord tells this morning is one of the most well known and talked about parables in the New Testament. The Fathers of the Church have set this reading before us today in keeping with the theme of preparation for Great Lent. This is the third Sunday of our time of preparation before the beginning of the Great Fast. And the last two Sundays we have looked at the encounter of Zacchaeus the Tax-collector with our Lord, and also at the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. The necessity of repentance and of humility in the Christian life were the focus of those two readings. And today’s message is a sort of culmination of this cycle—a parable of returning home to the Father. The parallel in this parable is very thinly veiled—it’s a parable about the return of man to his Father, God. This parable is the Christian life. We are the son. We’ve taken our inheritance, all of the wonderful things that God has given us, and we’ve used them simply for our own pleasure. We’ve ignored constantly the direction that God has offered us in His Holy Church. This is a fact that, in humility, all Christians must accept. Even if we’re dedicated to working out our salvation, we are the son on the journey back to the Father. What we learn about ourselves from the son in this parable is what most of us already know. That we’ve given ourselves to the sins of the world, and have lowered ourselves—as the Pre-Communion prayers say—even lower than the animals. And so we get up to go home. At some point in our lives, we did this in the sense of choosing Christ, becoming Christian. We chose to remove ourselves from the way of the world and to go to the Father’s house. Yet we continue to fall, and we continue to need to get up out of the pigpen and head back home to the Father. The movement of the Prodigal Son is a movement that we repeat constantly in our lives. Like the monk who was asked what they did in the monastery, and he replies, “We fall and get up, we fall and get, we fall get up again.” This is the movement of the lives of Orthodox Christians. And we’ve talked over the last few weeks about making that better. About offering a deeper repentance that helps us stay away from the pigpen for a while. Or looking at ourselves with humility, seeing that we’re nothing without Christ. And as we head into Lent, we’re going to hear constantly about this return to God. So as we spend the next month and a half concentrating on changing ourselves by the grace of God, we really should look and see what this parable tells us about the one to whom we’re returning. As your heading home, you really need to know what you’re heading to. This parable reveals so poignantly the depth of God’s love for man. We’re created free. We’re given everything in the world, literally. We’re raised in the midst of the love of God. But we always remain free. And we can choose to take all the things that God has given us, and strike out on our own. We can choose to leave the Father’s house—to dis-associate ourselves. But the love of God is an incredible thing. The Father, in the parable, is watching daily for the son. He’s not angry. He’s not vengeful. He doesn’t write off the son and just get back to life as usual. He continues to manage His affairs on the one hand, but He’s always waiting, yearning, for His son to return. And when the son finally begins to make his way home, he’s in the state that we should be in. He knows his errors, he knows where he needs to be, and he goes as a humbled and defeated man, trusting in the Father’s mercy. But this Father, whose been watching for his son’s return for how long? Maybe years. This Father see his son in the distance, and having compassion on him, runs out to meet him. And then it doesn’t matter what the son says. He has to make his confession, he has to get it all off his chest. But it doesn’t matter what he says. He’s come home. And all the Father wants to do is love him. To re-integrate him into the family. He brings out the best clothes and prepares a great feast. Because the son has come home. And the Father welcomes him home as the rightful heir, and gives him back everything that once was his. This is the God we worship. This is the God that we’re constantly repenting before, that we’re constantly hurting with our sin, and then coming back to. A God, a Father, who doesn’t care what the child has done, as long as we go home. We will have to live with the consequences for the life we’ve chosen. But in Christ, all is made well. He’s spent all this time waiting for our return. And the Father receives us with open arms and numbers us among the chosen ones. The adopted children of God. What an incredible thing to hear from God—Son, all that I have is yours…well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!