Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Scriptures of the Triodion
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
“But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.” Luke 11: 20-24
Good morning Prayer Team!
The image of the father in this story is one that brings me great comfort. It is obvious that the father loves his two sons. He will do anything for them, including giving half of his property to his younger son. He also gives his sons freedom. He doesn’t indenture them to work for him. He freely gives the younger son (and presumably would have to the older one as well) the freedom to walk away from his chores on the farm.
The father is also undoubtedly sad as he watches his son leave. Taking his inheritance, something he is not entitled to until the father has died, is a fundamental rejection of the father. The father doesn’t know if he will ever see his son again. He mourns for his son the way someone does when someone dies.
The father does not send out a search party for the son. For he has given him freedom without conditions. I sometimes imagine the father sitting on his porch, looking longingly down the street, wondering if there will come a day when he son arrives back home.
And then one day, it happens. Here comes his son. He sees him from a long way off and runs out to greet him. The son, filled with contrition, having carefully prepared his desperate plan to ask to become his father’s servant, is ready for his encounter with his father. He hopes for mercy and pity. Instead the father runs at him with joy. There is no mercy, no pity, just sheer joy that his son has come home.
As the father goes to embrace his son, the son pushes him away saying “Wait, wait! I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants!” It is almost as if the father is unconcerned with where his son has been. He makes no mention of his lost money. He’s just happy that his son came home safe and sound.
In the parable, we are the younger son. God is the Father. When we have sinned, when we’ve made a plan for repentance, when we’ve made the journey back, there is no need to worry how we will be received. This is what Jesus is telling us in the parable. We will be received the way the son was by his father. We will be received with joy. Our repentance will be rewarded by God’s joy, not by His condemnation.
Therefore, we should ask ourselves, what keeps us from making the journey back to the Father when we already know the ending, when we already know how joyful the Father will be to receive us back safe and sound?
The journey of the Prodigal is one that we will take over and over again in life. It is not a one-time reuniting with the father. We will unite, and then we will sin and fall away. The message of the story is that it doesn’t matter how we’ve sinned or how many times we’ve fallen away. The Father is ready to accept us back with joy. All it takes is our repentance, our desire to come back.
Like the Prodigal Son, I too, have come, O compassionate one; I have spent my whole life in a foreign land; I have squandered the wealth that You have given me, O Father. Receive me as I repent, O God, and have mercy on me. (From the Praises of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Continue to think about your Lenten plan!
Photo Credit: Fr. Ted’s Blog
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