About How the Parable Applies to Us


        Brothers and sisters!


        Who among us has not labored and does not continue to labor every day for sin, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, like the Prodigal Son in the parable from today’s Gospel?  Who has not felt and does not continue to feel sin’s terrible stabs, and suffer from the pangs of conscience and the dejection that follow our falls into sin?  Only the person who has slain his conscience by repeatedly ignoring its voice does not feel this.  All of us are sinners before God, and therefore experience alienation and exile from Him, like the Prodigal; and if the Lord in His boundless mercy and compassion had not granted us repentance and forgiveness through the sacrifice on the Cross, the whole human race would have been lost forever in the abyss of Hades, the abode of eternal darkness.  But glory be to the all-good and all-wise God, Who has redeemed sinners, established repentance for them, and led them up to life eternal!  Through washing with tears of contrition and the immaculate blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, innumerable sinners have been cleansed, justified, and sanctified.  All these repentant sinners, Orthodox Christians of every generation, rejoice now in heaven with the angels.  If we wish to share their joy, then we should ask ourselves, especially on this, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son:  do we truly value the priceless gift, the gift of repentance?  Do we sigh over our transgressions, like the publican in last Sunday’s Gospel reading?  Do we weep, like the harlot?  Do we wash our bed with tears, like David, the forefather of God?  Are we even now returning to the heavenly Father with deep, intense, true repentance, like the Prodigal in today’s lection?

        For sinners, dear Christians, there is no other path to life, grace, and the mercy of our Father in heaven besides sincere repentance.  Every day of the year our Holy Orthodox Church, the transmitter and explicator of the authentic, original spirit of Christ’s teachings, the unique channel of His boundless love and compassion, urges us to repent; but she especially urges us now, when the great period of fasting and penitence, Holy Lent, is drawing near.  As obedient children, let us hearken to the kind, loving voice of our mother, the Church of Christ; let us ponder the story of the Prodigal Son; and let us rouse ourselves from the stupor of sin.  Let us cease to pander to the flesh and to foster a worldly mindset, and begin to care for our eternal souls; let us do the works of God, that we may enjoy inner peace and the consolation of a pure conscience.  The Lord, our loving, celestial Father, eagerly runs to meet every sincere penitent, delivering him from the woes attendant to sin and transforming sin’s sorrow into spiritual joy.  Every repentant sinner has experienced this, the joy of the Prodigal in today’s Gospel.

        And now, having begun thus, let us turn directly to the text of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and consider its meaning.  The father in the story is God, the parent of all men.  The table He prepares for the penitent son is the sacrifice of the Cross.  The calf slaughtered for the feast is the Only-begotten Word, Who willingly offers Himself for the life of the world.  The Father offers the Body and Blood of the Logos as food and drink:  a true, spiritual, life-bestowing, wondrous banquet of faith and salvation, and the ultimate expression of His love for sinners.  And so, ask yourself, sinner:  do you return love for the Lord’s measureless love?  Do you have the true repentance that alone can make you worthy to partake of this spiritual feast of love leading unto life eternal?  For without such repentance there can be no salvation even in and by this Mystery, the Mystery of the Cross and the Holy Eucharist.

        And what of the best robe, the ring, and the shoes mentioned by the Saviour?  Are you wearing them?  The best robe, in which the father clothed his son, is the robe of righteousness, or rather, it is Christ Himself, as it says in the Scriptures:  As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.[1]  To wear this robe means not just to have been baptized in water, but to live according to Christ’s righteousness and truth.  The ring is a sign of betrothal, of betrothal to the Holy Spirit, Who comes to dwell in the hearts of the devoted faithful as though in  temples.  Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?[2] asks Saint Paul.  Holy is the temple of God; therefore, if we are to be God’s temples, then we must abide in holiness every day.  The shoes represent the grace to walk aright on the path of the commandments of Christ.  My steps do Thou direct according to Thy saying, it says in the psalms, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.[3]  Without the shoes of grace we cannot walk the straight path of God’s commandments, so let us put them on and hasten to the Lord with spiritual fervor, shaking off the torpor of indifference and sloth, that we may live in a state of grace.

        For soon, dear Christians, Holy Lent will begin:  the time for the utmost spiritual fervor, the time for heartfelt confession of sins and tearful communing of the life-giving Mysteries.  Soon will begin the season for purification of soul and body by fasting, prayer, and repentance.  And so, when you leave the Lord’s holy house today, remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son, examine your heart, consider how you have settled in a country far from your Heavenly Father; and return to Him.  If you have departed because of unbelief, because of freethinking or doubts, then give full assent to every dogma and moral teaching of the Church, and like David you will perceive wondrous things out of God’s law.[4]  If you have left because of pride, then humble yourself and understand that God resisteth the proud.[5]  If it was apathy that separated you from your Father, then remember the rebuke of the Alpha and Omega, Who said, I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:  I would that thou wert cold or hot.  So then, because Thou art lukewarm, I will spue thee out of My mouth.[6]  If you went your own way because of anger or enmity toward a Christian brother, then remember that whoever hateth his brother is a murderer,[7] both of the other and himself; and learn to be kind, forgiving, and meek.  Whatever it is that has drawn you away from God and continues to separate you from Him, realize the spiritual poverty to which it has reduced you.  Arise now, dear brothers and sisters, as we prepare for the sacred season of Holy Lent.  Return and cry out with the Prodigal Son:  Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee; and you will quickly find yourself restored to the Paternal Embrace as a beloved child.  Amen.


[1] Gal. 3:7

[2] I Cor. 3:16

[3] Ps. 118:33

[4] Ps. 118:18

[5] Jas. 4:6; I Pet. 5:5

[6] Rev. 3:15-16

[7] I John 3:15