On this Sunday (03/12/23), the third Sunday of the Great Fast, the Church reads Luke 15:11-32. This passage narrates the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” one of the most familiar and beloved of all Christ’s Parables.
The father in this parable represents God and His actions indicate complete forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. The prodigal son represents any sinner who repents and comes back to the Father. The elder brother represents those that are self-righteous and prejudiced towards repenting sinners.
There are many messages that can be taken away from this Parable—the first being that although God is waiting for us to take the first step toward him, however, He is continuously sending signals and knocking on our heart’s door. As soon as we take this first step, God will lovingly and joyfully accept us with open arms. In this sense, the first step is the opening up of our hearts through repentance and confession. As St. Ambrose explains, “But although he knows everything, God, however, awaits the expression of our confession.” Confession is a conscious and willing coming back to God. Thus, let us take this first step of confession so that we can be accepted by God in a likewise manner to the prodigal son.
Through this passage, the Church is also telling us that the Holy Fast is the time when we should be pulling away from worldly desires and possessions and seeking to be in the presence of God—through prayer, hymns, spiritual reading, and more. When we are away from the world and in God’s presence, there will be a celebration in heaven as we are reunited with the Father. We are told by St. John, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15 ESV).” To be united with the Father, we have to avoid the lusts of the world and make a dedicated effort to spend time with Him.
As Saint Athanasius writes, “Now there is singing and joy in the Father’s home. What happened is the result of the Father’s grace and loving-kindness. Not only does He bring His son back from death, but also through the Spirit He clearly shows His grace.” Through God’s grace, we are reunited with Him every time we sin, as long as we take that first step of coming back to Him.
- Bible, English Standard Version
- St. Ambrose’s Commentary on Luke 15
- Festal Letter 7, in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, vol. III, p. 251