My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
The good God is good towards all. He is long-suffering and loves mankind. He shows His goodness in an especial way to sinners who repent.
The Church wishes us to be reminded of this today, this second of the four pre-Lenten Sundays of preparation, as we read today the parable of the Prodigal Son.
This parable reveals and demonstrates the force, the immense power of the repentance of sinners and the inexpressible greatness of God’s love. The parable serves as a summons to all of us who are sinners.
In the parable, we have three main players: the father and his two sons.
God the Father, the Lover of mankind, is seen in the figure of the father, while in the two sons we see the two types of people: the righteous and the sinners.
Since righteousness is, in fact, the more ancient state of human nature, the righteous man is called the elder son. Evil arose after righteousness, and therefore the sinful man is called the younger son.
Now, as the image of the sinner, they younger son was inconstant, weakened, and his heart was unsettled and unsatisfied, and he said to his father, Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And the father divided the inheritance between them equally.
Equally, between the elder and the younger, the righteous and the sinful, for God has given to all persons reason and free will. The Lord maketh the sun to rise equally on all, and sendeth rain on the evil and on the good.
And, of course, we know then that the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Those who take their journey into a far country, those who take all that they have received from God Himself, which is to say, all that they have and all that they are – and then distance themselves from God will fall into every type of wicked and sinful deed, and will themselves experience every manner of evil.
So it happened to the younger son, as the “far country” into which he had journeyed soon began to experience a great famine, and he lost all that he had inherited.
So also, when we ourselves go wandering into a far country, far from God, it is not long before we encounter famine. For there is no spiritual food in the wastelands outside of pastures of God’s grace. The sinner loses all the good things which he had received from God, and becomes spiritually indigent.
And the parable says that the younger brother then went and “joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine,” and the young man would have gladly eaten the corn husks he was feeding to the swine, so great was his hunger.
A man who is accustomed to the sensual pleasures of this life grows progressively worse all the time. Every day he seeks to satisfy his flesh; and to this end he will even put himself in the service of the demons. So it is here, for the demons are the citizens of that “far country” which is far from God.
The swine being fed are the passions. Actual sin is compared and likened to the husks, as it feeds the swine of the passions, but contains in itself nothing nourishing, nothing beneficial.
But then we hear that the younger son comes to his senses, and resolves to return to his home and his father. He said: I will arise and go to my father; and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and came to his father.
You see, when we sin, we are beside ourselves; we are deprived of reason; we lose our minds. But when we fulfill the commandments of God and do what is right, then we return to ourselves. Thus, when the prodigal son came to himself, he returned in repentance and sought not even to be called a son, but simply to be made as one of the hired servants.
And when the young man was still a great way off his father saw him, and, as the Gospel tells us, he “had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let as eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
No sooner did the prodigal son contemplate repentance than his father immediately reached out to him in love. He saw his son coming from afar, and he went to meet him. He did not wait for his son to come to him; rather he acted first, embracing and kissing him, thus showing his total forgiveness and his loving-kindness.
The servants of the father are the minsters of the Church who clothe in the vesture of grace those who turn to repentance. And when we have been clothed with the new man, we partake of the fatted calf; we are sanctified by the Communion of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the calf which was fatted, slain and eaten is the figure of Christ, Who never experienced the yoke of the law of sin.
Of course, as this was happening, the elder son was in the field – the field of the virtues, which he indeed cultivated in himself. And as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he learned from one of the servants of the return of his younger brother and of all that the father had done upon his return.
And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. Loving his children, the wise father accepts the son who returned and reassures the son who never left.
Here our Lord shows that it is fitting to rejoice and be glad at the repentance of sinners. For who would not be glad at seeing a dead man return to life? And who does not rejoice at finding something which was lost?
Further, it is no injustice to righteous elder brother that the younger brother should be welcomed home. In this parable the Lord says to all who are tempted to justify themselves: Suppose you are righteous like the elder son, and pleasing to the Father; nevertheless, the Lord asks you who are righteous and pure not to grumble about the salvation of sinners, but rather to rejoice and be glad with them, for even the angels rejoice at the repentance and salvation of sinners.
Therefore, my friends, do not turn away from those who sin, do not complain when God receives them, do not be troubled by the mercy of God.
Rather let us bow down in gratitude to God for those who are being led aright to repentance and salvation. Let us cultivate in the field of our own hearts blessed repentance, compunction, and the glorification of God.
Then our Father, Who is so desirous of our love, will receive us kindly and mercifully; He will fall upon us to embrace us; He will clothe us in our original garment of righteousness; He will grant us entrance to the kingdom of heaven.