The Sunday’s prior to the start of Great Lent each carry a theme in preparation for the start of this holiest of seasons on the Church calendar. In the Orthodox Church, the past Sunday, we read the story from the Gospel of St. Luke about the Prodigal Son and his return home to his father’s house. This story is a reminder of not only the love of this man for his son, but the love of God for all of His children when they go astray.
It has become quite common for me to hear of people speak of sin as if it is nothing unless someone else is harmed by whatever it was that is committed. That is certainly not the tradition of the Orthodox Church as all sin carries with it a separation from God as well as a separation from the community. The son’s greed and pride separated him from his family and the community when he took his father’s hard earned money and went off to do his own thing.
The striking part of this story for me is the arrogance of the son to believe that he has anything coming to him from his father. His father has given him life, and by all accounts in the story, very good life. Where do we get the idea that our parents owe us anything? When his father does give him a share, his pride tells him that he knows best and sets off, by the end of the story we see how well that has worked out for him.
This story is less about the three people, the father, the son, and his brother than it is about us. We have squandered our inheritance, the Heavenly Kingdom, by our sinful nature as the son had squandered his inheritance from his father. This entire passage is about reconciliation and forgiveness.
I have written before that in my opinion; forgiveness is the cornerstone of the spiritual life. We need forgiveness as well as the need for us to grant forgiveness. What we see in the relationship between the father and his son is just this, forgiveness for what the son had done. Since the son was truly repentant, the father welcomed him home and into his arms once again. That is the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father.
Sometimes we lose our way, sometimes it is intentional and sometimes not so intentional but there is always a way back. The way back needs to begin with a realization that we are lost and the desire to turn away from our sinful lives and towards a life of reconciliation. Reconciliation with God does not mean that we will be perfect or never sin again, far from it, but it will put us on the path to a better spiritual life.
As I wrote about last time, humility is necessary for the recognition that we have done wrong. The Prodigal Son came to this realization after the harshness of what he had done finally hit him. He was eating food that was being given to the pigs; this is how far this life had fallen. He was at his rock bottom and was not sure of how to climb. It does not matter how or when we come to this realization just that we do. The road back can be a painful one, but it is a journey that we have to take.
The other person in the story is the other brother who stays with his father while his brother goes off to do what he is going to do. When his brother returns, he gets mad and lashes out at the father saying that he has been here all along and that he has not dishonored the family. He tries to make the case for why his father should throw his brother out. The father simply turns to him and says that he is happy that he has remained with him. He tells him that his brother who was lost has been found has come home, and this should be a time of rejoicing.
In the end, the goal of our spiritual life is reconciliation with God and our fellow man and a desire to stay on the right path. Staying on the right path is not an easy journey, and it cannot be done alone, we need to community as much as we need God. The holy season of Lent is upon us. Make this the year to get back on track, I can promise you that you will not regret it.
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