COMPASSIONATE ONE, I COME BEFORE YOU LIKE THE PRODIGAL SON: FOR MANY YEARS I HAVE ABANDONED YOU, AND NOW YOU ARE A STRANGER TO ME. RESTORE TO ME THE FIRST LOVE WHICH I WASTED, LORD; RECEIVE ME IN REPENTANCE AND SAVE ME! (Matins Tone 4 Praises Verse, Prodigal Son)
In the parable of the Prodigal Son we just heard last Sunday, we were told of a son who made himself a stranger to his father. Notice, the father did not make himself a stranger to his son. Even in a faraway country where he was eating the food of swine, he remembered the love and care of his father. His father was there with him as he ate the food of the swine. The presence of his father allowed the son to remember his father and his home. This enabled the son to return home to and to confess that he was not worthy to be called his son. He asked if he could come back as a worker, a servant or a hired hand. His father had begun to run to him even before the son could say anything. The following canon verse says it all:
“Open Your arms, O Christ, and receive me in loving kindness as I return from a far country of sin and passions.” (Ode Three Verse, Canon of the Prodigal Son)
This parable can be a source of encouragement to families. There is no sin that is so great that cannot be forgiven. So, it is very important for parents to call upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to make them icons of this father that is not only willing to forgive, but to rejoice and throw a party for the son who returns home. Is this father rewarding his bad behavior? No, he is celebrating the fact that his son has found himself and has returned to his first love
We live in such a condemning, judgmental world, where cancel culture lives in both realms of the political spectrum. We are in need of the humility of this prodigal son and the great mercy of his father. Let us not be like the older son, who stayed home where he became fixated and stuck in a pool of anger, judgment and condemnation. This is sad, because he was obedient and did all that he was supposed to. He could not acknowledge his brother who returned home, referring to him as “this son of yours.” When he complained to his father, his father affirmed that all he (the father) had, belonged to his obedient son as well. As families seek to live out the reality of this parable in their daily living, let us not lose sight of the fact that the Lord wants to rejoice over our repentance and not focus on our wrongdoings.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
With love in Christ, Archbishop Paul