Homily 396 – 35th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 16, 2020
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.
One of the appeals of the parable of the Prodigal is that we all find ourselves in the story.
The story itself is, like most of the parables of Christ, very straightforward, and very easy to understand.
There are some, though, that will say “that’s not me – I’ve never left the family, my people – never left them at all.
That is true – you haven’t left your family and your people, but your people have left their home.
The parable of the Prodigal is the story of all of us, because it is the story of the fall. The parallels to the account of the fall of humanity in Genesis is striking. The prodigal, like the first humans in the garden of paradise, attempts to self-determine their future path.
In the case of paradise, it was assisted by a deception – the promise that what we desire is somehow better or more pleasant than what God promises us. And like the prodigal, the first humans took their inheritance and went to a far country.
The scriptures kindly say that humanity was “cast out” of paradise into this world – but in some respects, that may be a cop-out. We cast ourselves out of paradise, just as the prodigal left his home freely.
The prodigal took that inheritance and squandered it. Our inheritance in the garden, the love and care of God, humanity also squandered.
We fed our ego instead of one another. We made the most important actions our own desires. We took love – designed to be offered to others – and turned it inward and became selfish and narcissistic.
We indulged our flesh, thinking that pleasure was the goal. Just like that fruit from the tree of knowing good and evil seemed good to eat, pleasing to the eye.
In reality, though, pleasure was fleeting and illusory. Pleasure was momentary, and never offered satisfaction.
It never filled us – pleasure only left us wanting more. And the spiral continued, and continues today.
The constant in the narrative though is the unending, ever-present unconditional love of the Father.
The Father never falters, never doubts. The Father always longs for the return of his child. The parable says that while the prodigal was still a ways off – the Father ran to him.
Importantly, however, the Father didn’t go retrieve the prodigal before the prodigal decided to return home.
Even more than the unconditional love, the Father honors the choice of His child. He won’t come to us until we invite him to come to us. He doesn’t come until he sees us beginning to come to Him.
We have to make that course correction, to retarget and reorient ourselves to pursuing Him instead of our own wants and desires.
We call that repentance.
And the beauty of God’s love for us is that when we determine that we want to return to Him, then He comes to us.
We don’t have to move. We only need to desire Him, to seek Him, and allow Him to consume us. We allow ourselves to be moved, to be shaped and formed, into His perfect vision of us.
And that is pretty much the extent of our activity and movement. Life changes a lot when you make the first moves of repentance. Old things – well, they don’t really become unimportant any more, but they begin to fade.
Like a person waiting for their beloved, we try to see them in everything, and we take comfort in their presence.
We are much more willing to exhale, and to exist in a moment. Sometimes those moments involve preparation for what we know is to come – our meeting with Christ. Sometimes, they just involve being.
Regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, we can be there with thanks and with joy, knowing that our Father is re-establishing us in our home. He is preparing the celebration, dressing us in honor and respect, placing the ring on our hand – which recognizes our return to the family, our return to our people.
We can live in the moment, the now, and allow that to be enough, and make the decisions we want to make, when we are presented with them.
Knowing that all is in the direction and control of our Father who loves us. And knowing that we will make mistakes, and we will run ahead and occasionally lose sight of Him.
And that if we just be still, He has already forgiven us. He will find us, and meet us again, and receive us.
As we prepare to enter into the Lenten season, that is our goal. To decide today to repent – refocus on God – deny ourselves, and allow God to form us – to re-form us – into the image and likeness that existed at our creation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!