What exactly was the return of the Prodigal Son? (2)2 March 2021
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So come to your senses in this way, because there’s no other way to do so. Get up and take this bold decision, saying to yourself: ‘I’ll arise and go to my father’ (Luke 15, 18). Get up out of this mud you’re wallowing in and go running to find your father, our sweet Jesus, in whose hands the whole of your salvation lies, the whole of your peace, the whole of your eternity. ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4, 12). What are your afraid of ? Even if, through your own fault, you’ve lost what it means to be a son, this doesn’t mean that he’s lost what it means to be a father. As Saint John Chrysostom says: ‘We lost the hallmark of sonship, but He didn’t cast off his capacity as father’. You followed the example of the prodigal by sinning as you did, so you can now follow his example by repenting, and humbling yourself down to the ground before God, by confessing before Him and His angels that you have erred and aren’t worthy of being called His son. ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your servants’.
That freedom, for the love of which you were moved to leave your home, you can now dedicate to the Lord. You can inspire your heart with great boldness, at the thought that your heavenly father, seeing you so poor, so naked, so wretched and ill-used by the devil, by the passions and by sin (because, as one wise person said, wickedness is a necessary punishment for the wicked) still doesn’t think about the fact that you squandered your inheritance. Nor does he remember what you did, only what you suffered, as Saint John Chrysostom, the preacher of repentance and comforter of sinners says: ‘This is why it doesn’t say “what he did”, but “what he suffered”. He didn’t dwell on the fact that his son had squandered his inheritance, but rather that he’d fallen into countless misfortunes. This is how he seeks the lost sheep with such concern’ (Discourse on repentance [of the son who returned from the field]). This is why, out of his excess of kindness, he’ll come to meet you, he’ll fall on your neck, he’ll embrace you, he’ll give you the kiss of peace and he’ll forget all your sins. And for your part, in your astonishment at his immeasurable loving-kindness, distance yourself from your sins, despise them as you never did before. Think shame, that others who were lower and beneath you, led pure lives, in obedience to our heavenly father. They didn’t leave home and they belong to the order of sons. Others sinned, but through the efforts and exertions of repentance, regained grace and belong to the order of servants (according to the interpretation of Saint Gregory Palamas).
Both of these groups take part in the divine sacraments. Their hearts are filled with God’s grace and with a lavishly-given peace of the conscience. But you, miserable wretch that you are, you disregard God’s commandments. You sin, you don’t repent as you should and you’ve been deprived of all this. You’ve made it a Rule not to take part in the divine sacraments: ‘How many of my father’s servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death’. Take the decision to show that from now on you’ll repent with contrition; you’ll seek the Lord’s grace, to strengthen you and to prevent you from refusing to submit to his commandments ever again. As a loving father, the Lord calls to you as his child and cries out to you, like the prophet: ‘Return you wayward children, for you belong to me’ (Jer. 3, 14).