The Father is Waiting with Open Arms!

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

1 Cor 6:12-20,  Luke 15:11-32

The Prodigal Son. We know the story. It’s a story of sin, repentance, and mercy. The Church gives us this gospel just before the beginning of Lent to remind us that, no matter what we’ve done, we can repent. God’s mercy is available to all. Indeed, like the father in the parable, God loves us so much that He is waiting, standing and looking for us to come home.

There’s a Southern Gospel song about this, and the chorus goes: “Rejoice, rejoice, my son is coming home again. Rejoice, rejoice, go kill the fatted calf. Rejoice, rejoice, my son is coming home again, rejoice on his behalf”. And I’ll bet there was indeed much rejoicing in the rich man’s home - but not everybody rejoiced.

You see, the rich man had two sons, a good boy and a bad boy. When we hear this parable, we tend to focus on the younger son, the bad boy. But the older son? He’s the one who stayed behind. He’s the one who stood by the father. He’s the one who didn’t squander his money. He’s the one who worked in the family business.

And then, the bad boy comes home - totally humble, totally repentant. And, as we know, the father forgives him. He not only forgives him, he throws a party. And the older brother resents it. Boy does he resent it.

He refuses to join in the festivities. He’s hurt, and he’s angry.

Apparently, the younger brother had been absent for quite a while. One translation has the older brother saying, “all these years”. And with each passing day, he’s probably thinking, “my brother should be here, helping out. Why should I do this alone? He should be here, helping!”

Have you ever been let down by someone close to you - a sibling or close friend? Even a co-worker? Then you probably know how this guy felt.

And not only is resentful, he’s judgmental. “ . . .your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes” is the way one translation puts it. Of course, using the services of a prostitute is sinful, but if his father had forgiven the younger brother, why throw it in the father’s face?

In our epistle reading, Paul talks about all things being lawful, but not all things being beneficial. Some translations say profitable. The resentment that the older son felt towards his brother - was it beneficial? What about reminding his father that his brother had spent the money on prostitutes? And his refusal to welcome his brother home? Was any of it beneficial?

Now, what about the younger brother’s actions? Asking for his inheritance, leaving home and living a dissolute lifestyle were obviously not beneficial. And, he sank so low that he was feeding pigs! (Remember, pigs are unclean under the Mosaic Law).

But, coming to his senses, humbling himself, returning to his father? All of those were beneficial.

The question, though, is beneficial for what?

In one of his last epistles, Paul wrote to Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. And, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says that He has come that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. What makes something beneficial is that it points to, it leads to, salvation and the knowledge of the truth; what makes something beneficial is that it leads to abundant life.

In our epistle reading today, Paul contrasts eating to maintain life with eating in such a way that we become a slave to food. The first he says is beneficial, but not the second. He then says that the body is not made for immorality. Physical intimacy within heterosexual marriage is beneficial, but outside that it is not beneficial.

The parable contrasts three men. Remembering that Jesus said that the merciful shall obtain mercy, we see that the older brother is spiteful and judgmental. Neither action is merciful. Neither action is beneficial.

Then we look at the younger brother. He starts off poorly, but he repents and comes home to his father. The action is beneficial.

Then we look at the father. He is merciful. His action is beneficial.

As I said earlier, the Church gives us this Sunday to remind us that we can repent.

Let us take to heart, praying the Kontakion for today: “When I foolishly separated myself from your Fatherly glory, I squandered, in wickedness, the riches You had given me. So now I cry out to You with the voice of the Prodigal Son, saying: I have sinned before You, O merciful Father; receive me, repentant, and make me as one of Your hired servants”.

And, let us remember the blessings mentioned in the sticharion of vespers.

Brethren, let us learn the meaning of this mystery. For when the Prodigal Son ran back from sin to his Father’s house, his loving Father came out to meet him and kissed him. He restored to the Prodigal the tokens of his proper glory, and mystically he made glad on high, sacrificing the fatted calf. Let our lives, then, be worthy of the loving Father who has offered sacrifice, and of the glorious Victim who is the Saviour of our souls.

The Father is waiting for us, with open arms. Glory be to Jesus Christ!!!