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.’ (Luke 15: 20-24)

Good morning Prayer Team!

How does God forgive us? The simple answer is “easily.”

When does God forgive us? Again, the answer is simple, “when we repent.”

We are all familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger of two sons went to his father asked for his share of his inheritance. He then takes the inheritance, goes to a far away country, and in short order he squanders all of it-he wastes it. Soon he has no money, no friends and no food. He found himself feeding swine and gladly eating the food of the swing, and no one gave him anything.

The key moment in this story is when the young man “came to himself.” (v. 17) He realized what he had done wrong. He decided that he would go back to his father, and beg his father’s forgiveness. In fact, he was not only going to ask forgiveness, he was going to offer a sincere repentance (a change in attitude, a change in direction) by offering to work as a servant.

The father in the story was profoundly sad that he has lost his son. But he didn’t send out a search party to find the son and force him to come home. I usually envision the father sitting on his porch, crying, looking down the road, hoping for the day that his son would come home. And one day, he looked up and saw the son coming back. He wasn’t made. He wasn’t disappointed. He wasn’t even distrustful. He was overjoyed.

Now here is something we usually miss when we read this story. The father was so overjoyed to see his son, that his first action, if you read closely, is that he ran to his son, and embraced him and kissed him. He didn’t interrogate him, or ask him to explain himself. He embraced him. He welcomed him home. I imagine that the son had to almost push his father away in order to make his apology.

The father can hardly contain his joy. He doesn’t put his son on probation, or ground him. Almost oblivious to his son’s apology, he orders his servants to bring the best robe, a ring and shoes. He ordered the fatted calf killed and a feast to be made. Because “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

This parable illustrates how God forgives us. When we “come to ourselves” and come back in repentance, God is ready to forgive us. But the first move belongs to us-we have to repent and return and we will find forgiveness. Unlike when we apologize to one another and wonder “will they forgive and forget, or will they hold something against me”, we don’t have to wonder what the Lord’s reaction will be. God loves us-we are His sons and daughters. When one of God’s children squanders the inheritance, which in this story represents the faith, all the Lord needs is our repentance, and we can count on His forgiveness, His joy, at our return.

When I hear confessions, I try to think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I try to put myself in the place of this father. When I see someone coming to confession, I am so happy that another child is coming home that whatever the person is going to say is almost immaterial. The important thing is that they came to say something, they came to themselves and came home.

The Prodigal Son offers us a model not only for how God forgives us, but how we should forgive one another, and how we are to ask for forgiveness.

To receive forgiveness from the Lord, you have to come to yourself, and come back in repentance. The result will be God’s forgiveness.

And between two people, we should use the same model-when someone asks for forgiveness and makes an offering of repentance (indicates a willingness to change), then we should forgive, restore and have joy.

When you have done wrong, own it, make a plan for repentance, and go in sincerity with repentance when you ask for forgiveness. We won’t necessarily be forgiven every time by our fellow man. What the Lord expects is that we will ask one another for forgiveness. We WILL be forgiven by the Lord, every time we come to ourselves and come back to Him in repentance.

Lord our God, I have sinned against heaven and before You because of the sins I commit every day. Help me to repent. Help me to change. Help me to find my way back to Your loving embrace. Please be patient with me. Please continue to forgive and restore me. Please help me to have patience with others. And please give me the strength to forgive and restore them. Amen.

Have a great day!

+Fr. Stavros

 

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    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


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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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

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