Homily on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Fr. Francis Rella

Source: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

February 26, 2016


Kontakion, Sunday of the Prodigal Son:

When I disobeyed in ignorance Thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that Thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to Thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before Thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of Thy hired servants.

Of the four Sundays preceding Great Lent, none is more full of hope than that of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the two brothers are poised at the crossroads of their adulthood. It is the realization point for the younger and perhaps the older that there is something more out there besides hearth and home. It is the realization and dream of every young person when attaining maturity to be set free from parental bonds, no matter how loving.

For the older brother, the reason that he did not venture out may have been out of fear, a sense of duty to his father, contentment, or wisdom and understanding for his purpose in life. For the younger it may have been wanderlust, frustrated restlessness, anxiety, rebellion, or the understanding that his father’s fortune would be lost in death and controlled by his elder brother.

Whatever we conjecture, the fact is that a decision was made by the son and accepted by the father. The father respected the free will of the son, however unlike the perfect Son, did not do the will of the father. The younger brother would take what was coming to him in terms of money and venture off on his own. Whatsoever the younger brother’s original intent, he ended up leading a lascivious lifestyle, living in the present moment alone, ending up in dire poverty, and finally utter despair. When the Prodigal Son became desperate enough, he took the most menial of jobs to survive and did not even have enough food to fill his empty belly. When he believed all was lost, he remembered that the servants of his father knew not hunger. He surmised that his father would have pity on him and although would not take him back as a true son, would allow him to serve him as a slave. Much to his surprise his father not only allowed him back onto the land of his birth, he welcomed him as a repentant son and restored his inheritance.

The first part of the parable represents us when we fall out of God’s Grace. We are children of a loving father, the Father who created us, not only of flesh but of spirit and soul. We believe as the Prodigal Son that what is given to us belongs to us and we are allowed to have these gifts without being loyal to the One who bestowed them; the great sin of being God without God. We face a world of lewdness, a world of lust, a world of artificial friendships, and falsehoods. Without the support of Our Father we are left unprotected and alone, with no one to pick up the pieces when we fail and fall. When all is lost, we turn to God and say that we have sinned against Him and ask for His help and forgiveness. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, Our Father in heaven forgives us and rejoices in our repentance.

The second part of the parable represents those who keep the faith in His Church. Those who are always there with the Father, who see Him, rejoice for our brothers and sisters who repent and return and yet are bewildered at His love and understanding. God speaks the same as the father in the parable tells the older brother,

“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The Church is God’s Kingdom on Earth. All the graces of God are contained within her in the Sacraments and Holy Tradition. As faithful Orthodox Christians we already enjoy the delight of Heaven, yet we need to rejoice when fallen persons come back to the Church truly repentant, confess, and are absolved. As we enter the final weeks before the Great Fast let us examine how we sinned against Heaven and sinned against Our Father. Like the Prodigal Son, let us expect nothing but a life of servitude as we toil in the vineyard, but we are not without hope. For as Saint John writes that it is Christ that prepares our final reward.

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Until then, we are confident in the fact that God will reward us with the great fruits of His Only Begotten Son and Life Creating Spirit until our final reward is given as we partake in the Holy Eucharist.

Fr. Francis Rella

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA


Rdr Andreas Moran3/2/2016 11:51 am
According to Jewish law in the Old Testament, the younger son was entitled to one third of his father's estate and the elder son the other two thirds. For a patristic commentary on this parable, see the Blessed Theophylact's 'Explanation of the Gospel of St Luke'.
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