Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Love draws us back Home
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
15 February, 2009
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 ; Luke 15:11-32

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

How could it happen, we might ask, that a young man who has everything would do as the young man did today in the Gospel parable : leave everything, go to a different country and waste all of his inheritance completely on himself (not just on bad investments or something like that). He was merely playing. He was not playing in a nice way, either, because the way he was living was impure. How could he do such a thing ?

The Lord does not tell us how it happened that he did this. However, perhaps you have noticed in your own life that sometimes, when you know precisely what is right to do, a sort of cloud can come to you, and you forget. Perhaps some sort of unexplainable desire or drive comes over you and you feel that you have to get away, and do something completely different. These sorts of drives come from below, from the powers of darkness. These drives are intended to separate a person from the Lord. Do not forget that the Apostle is telling us this morning that we are made for the Lord. We are not made for anyone or anything else, except for the Lord. How can it be that Adam and Eve at the beginning (who had absolutely everything), could forget who they were and what is their relationship with the Lord, and agree to do what the Lord had said not to do. How could it happen ? It is because this cloud of forgetfulness, combined with suggestions from down-below were accepted by them. There is a famous English saying (which probably exists in other languages, also) : “It seemed like a good idea at the time”. Many times in my life I have said that : “It seemed like a good idea at the time. It seemed like an interesting thing to do. Why not ?”

Another famous element in all this is that we also forget to think things through. I still remember from my childhood that many times when I got into some sort of mess, my father would ask me : “Why did you do that ?” I would say : “I did not think”. He would reply : “That is the trouble. You do not think”. He was right. I did not think things through. I still have trouble with this sometimes : not thinking things through, not remembering all the details, and mostly, not remembering Who is the Lord and who I am to Him.

The powers of darkness managed to separate Adam and Eve from their Creator. Adam and Eve forgot. They fell. They immediately began to lie. They were immediately full of fear. We, ourselves, recognise that in our lives. How do we get out of these messes ? There is only one way, the same way that the prodigal son got out of his mess. The son, in his desperation, remembered his father’s house and what it was like to be a hired servant in his father’s house. He recognised, at least, that in his father’s house there could be some sort of security. What else was producing this security and this fair treatment of servants and slaves in his father’s house, except love ? A person who treats one’s family in the right way knows the Lord and therefore knows how to live with the family. One knows, also, how to treat slaves (if that is the case in the society) or how to behave towards employees – that is, with love and with generosity.

The young man returns to his home. Before he even gets home, his father (who has been watching for him all this time) sees him, and runs to meet him. He brings him back into the family not as a hired servant (as the young man tried to ask for), but as a son (even if he did not get the inheritance any more). What was it that drew him back home ? It was his father’s love and prayers that followed him to that country and into his destitution and desperation. His father’s love and prayers were with him all the time, and brought him home. That is why his father could tell that his son was coming home.

It helps us to understand about the father that, in his behaviour, he broke every custom and convention because of his love. It was not at all done to divide an inheritance while the father was alive. Even were it to be so, it could not be spent until he died. A father would not run to his son in those cultures. It is not dignified to do so. The children had first to come to the parents and/or elders. The fatted calf was part of the elder brother’s inheritance, as the father has just said to the elder brother : “All that I have is yours”. Such was the depth of this father’s love, that celebrating the return of the lost son (who might have been dead but was not) overturned the usual customs and conventions. The father would, regardless, understand that any signs of forgiveness and reconciliation given to the younger son (whatever the cost) could be replenished through the younger son’s participation in the work and maintenance of the family’s farm. Such was the confidence of this father in the Lord’s love and blessing.

It is the same with you and with me, too. It is the Lord’s love that is always with us. It is the prayers of family, friends, saints, and the Mother of God that are with us, that bring us, also, home from our messes, from our desperation and from our destitution. It is the Lord’s love. I have heard in my life many stories from various families of how this has been precisely the case when children behave as this young man did today. They go away and rebel. They fall into forgetfulness and all sorts of horrible things. Yet, through their parents’ prayers, the prayers of their friends, and the intercessions of various saints, these young persons eventually come home. They eventually come to themselves and find their way (in a healthy way). This has happened many, many times in the lives of people that I know.

There are also many stories that I have been told about people who have been serving in one army or another, who have been in a war somewhere or other, and who have somehow managed to avoid being killed when people all around were being killed. Sometimes a bullet would hit some sort of Cross on the chest, a Bible or something else which would stop it there. There are many such stories. These are people whose parents were fervently praying for them. The prayers of parents for children who are losing their way are very strong. The Lord uses these prayers and this love to help to bring the children to themselves, to bring them home, to bring them into order, and to draw them into the right path.

As long as you and I are alive, we are most likely going to suffer from these so-called “good ideas” and these periods of forgetfulness. Sometimes, these things will come upon us unexpectedly after we have received a very big blessing. In fact, it happens so often that I would say that it is an axiom that this will happen. Every time there is a big blessing in a person’s life, it is followed by some sort of weird temptation. It comes from nowhere, unexpectedly. Sometimes it is a flashback to some weakness in a person’s earlier life. Fear is usually at the root of it all. Why does this come ? It comes because the father-of-lies is always trying to take blessings away from us in the way he managed to persuade the young man to go away with his inheritance, and to waste the whole thing. The Tempter thought he could deprive the young man of his inheritance and the loving support of his family. However, the young man was restored because of love.

When these things occur (big temptations after big blessings), it is necessary that you and I be quick to call to the Lord for help, for His protection, so that when the Tempter is tempting, he will not succeed in depriving us of the blessing that the Lord has given. These things are going to keep happening throughout all our lives. As long as we live, the Tempter is going to be trying to separate us from the Lord. It is important that you and I always hold on to the Lord, and that we be quick to turn to Him for help. We must be quick to turn to the Mother of God for her intercession because she is quick to hear. It is essential that we, like the prodigal son, remember the love of our heavenly Father and always turn to Him.

Let us ask the Lord to keep the awareness of His love alive and active in our hearts at all times, so that no matter how intense the temptation, no matter how “good” the ideas may present themselves to be, we will still remember that we were created for Him and that we belong to Him. We want to please Him. We want to be with Him in His Kingdom so that we can glorify Him eternally : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.