Homily 487 – 35th APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 20, 2022
Epistle: (135) 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel: (79) Luke 15:11-32
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

You may not realize it, but this week, we were all prophets this past week. What we did was not fast, and by so doing, demonstrated visibly to us that God doesn’t take what we do in order to deem us righteous.

It isn’t the righteousness of the Pharisee, but the repentance of the publican, that God desires from us, and that’s what our week without fasting vividly illustrates for us, and for the world.

And that is the activity of a prophet.

In the life and annual progression of the Church, we begin the progression to Pascha with a bit of a story, over the course of several weeks. We missed some of the weeks because of my COVID diagnosis, but even without the priest, even in the services as done with a reader, one still gets the complete story.

In the Sundays of the Triodion, the word that describes this time we are in, we start with Zacchaeus seeking Christ. Then, we see the Publican and the Pharisee illustrating righteousness. And today, we see the Prodigal Son.

It is a progression. A progression that leads us – it is a prophecy that repeats every year.

We learn that we need to most importantly seek Christ – and that seeking Christ leads to repentance.

Then, we see that it is that repentance, that change of our lives, is what God appreciates and wants from us.

And now, we experience unconditional love – the same love that God has for all of us. For each member of the human race.

In the story of the prodigal, we get such a wealth of knowledge about us. For the prodigal himself, his brother who stayed the course, and the Father who loves them both.

We can identify with each of these characters in some way. We’ve all been the prodigal, wanting to go our own way.

We’ve all been the one who stayed behind, obedient – meeting what we thought was expected of us.

And we’ve all been the one who lost something valuable, and mourned that loss, and had that loss returned to us.

The prodigal is one that reveals our desire to be free – or, what we believe is free. What we realize quickly is that freedom by our terms quickly enslaves us.

We realize how good we had it before we gave it up to go our own way.

We wake up one morning, and we finally are honest with ourselves – this isn’t freedom. This is bondage. This is slavery. My family’s servants are treated better than this.

Pragmatism takes over. Pride evaporates. We return home. And we find our family, our God and the Church, waiting for us. Not just waiting, but watching for us. Longing for us.

Running out to meet us, not letting us get out our carefully prepared speech. A speech which, if we are honest, are still our attempt to control things, to get what we think we need.

It takes time for us to realize that we can just sit back and relax because God has so much more for us that we can absorb.

But – isn’t there always a but? The son is treated like a son, a member of the family. But then Dad tells the one who stayed something critical – often overlooked.

The dad reminds the one who stayed behind, in the midst of his griping, that everything is now his. The squandered inheritance will not be returned to the returned prodigal.

While the prodigal returns, and is part of the family, the inheritance is not his to direct.

We can’t “unsquander” the inheritance. We are part of the family but have no piece of the inheritance.

And in the final analysis, as we approach Meatfare Sunday next week – the Sunday of the Last Judgement – we will see that we don’t own paradise, that is, what we are “given” as an inheritance is only for the enjoyment of all of us, together.

No one is excluded from enjoying what we steward as God’s agent. We have to share with everyone made in the image and likeness of God – that is every member of the human race.

That is a message that is relevant to our day and time. A time when we look around and we disagree with one another, but rather than just disagree, we can’t stop there – society, we, I, have to dehumanize the other.

They aren’t just wrong or misguided or even stupid. They are somehow sub-human. Meaning we no longer have to share with them or help them or care about them – or love them.

What God wants from us, and how God judges us, is based 100% on our love. Just love.

Love that extends to all living.

Love that never fails.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.