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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Scriptures of the Triodion
Saturday of the Prodigal Son
Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, 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.”’ And he arose and came to his father. Luke 15: 11-20 (From the Gospel of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son)
Good morning Prayer Team!
Tomorrow’s Gospel lesson will be about the Prodigal Son. Most of us are familiar with this story about two sons and their father. One son asked for his share of the inheritance from his father and then went out to a far-away country and frittered it away with loose living. When someone has a lot of money to burn, they make “friends” easily and it was probably so with this young man, running fast and loose with his money, enjoying it with whoever he met. Then, one day he ran out of money. And as so often happens when one runs out of money, the people he was running with left him. Jesus is quick to point out that no one gave him anything. He was in want, he was alone and he was hungry. The best he could do was get a job feeding swine and eating the food that the swine was eating. How he fell, from a loved son in a home with a family, to being alone without friends and without basic necessities.
Somewhere deep down, the man still had two things. He still had pride. And he had humility. He had pride, in the sense that he didn’t want to die among the pigs. He realized he needed another plan, what he was doing was untenable. And he was humble enough to realize that he needed to swallow whatever pride he had and go ask forgiveness from his father. Not only was he going to ask forgiveness, he was going to repent, he was going to chart a new course, not as an entitled son but as a servant.
The key moment in the story was when the young man “came to himself”. His father hadn’t run after him. There was no search party. There was no one encouraging or coercing him to come back. He realized on his own that he needed to go back. And he made a plan based around humility and repentance. The humility to admit wrong and the repentance to chart a new path.
This parable, told in the weeks leading up to Great Lent, offers many lessons to us. The first is that the inheritance in the story is the faith, the great gift we have been given by the Lord. It is the gift of salvation and the potential for eternal life in Christ. We are, at points in our lives, just like the Prodigal Son. We take the faith and we do not use it for its intended purpose. We take the gift of salvation and we squander it, we waste it. And we find ourselves like the Prodigal Son, alone, estranged from our Father.
And then comes a critical decision. Do we stay on this course, standing on stubborn pride? Or do we change course, do we repent, do we make our way back to the Father? Do we come back mitigating what we’ve done, or owning it? And do we come back only to clear the slate or to chart a new course?
The key moments of one’s Christian life are the “come to ourselves” moments, when we realize we’ve strayed off course and need to come back, not as entitled children, but as humble servants. The difference between the Parable and real life is that the son in the parable, when he made his journey back, really had no idea what the father was going to do to him. Was he going to punish him? Make him a slave? Certainly he could not have known that the father was going to take him back and throw a party for him. We KNOW how the Lord will receive us. We know that he will take us back with forgiveness and with joy.
As we approach Lent, there are two things from this Parable that we must do to prepare. The first is to evaluate, the way the son evaluated his circumstances and found them to be lacking. And the second is to make a plan to come back to the Father. The son developed and rehearsed his plan and then put it into action. Now is the time to develop our Lenten plan by evaluating how far we are from the Father and making a plan to come back closer to Him.
Foolishly I ran away, from your glory O Father, and wasted in sin, all the wealth that you gave me; therefore, the Prodigal’s cry 1 repeat to you: 1 have sinned, before you compassionate Father; do accept me in repentance, and make me again, one of your hired hands. (Kontakion of the Prodigal Son)
Begin to make a Lenten plan today!
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