Becoming Empty

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 15:11-32

As we are advancing ever closer to the start of the great and holy marathon we are blessed by the Church to receive all the tools that are necessary for our success.  We are fed by the word of God in order to gain nourishment for the task that lies ahead of us.

Last week we heard the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.  We were reminded that nothing matters if our disposition and our prayers are not said with true humility.  Today we again encounter, or rather are encountered by one of the powerful parables of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  We hear the story of the prodigal son today.

If the main lesson from last week was about humility.  We can say that the main lesson this week is about heartfelt repentance and God’s grace in forgiveness.  We are all like the rebellious son in this parable.  We have taken our inheritance in the kingdom of God.  We have taken our standing as children of God and tried to use it to our own benefit while neglecting the source of all that inheritance.

We take from God when we refuse to give offerings to the Church.  We take from God when we attribute all of the good things that happen to us as being due to our intelligence or education or talent or luck instead of giving glory to Him.  We take from God when we use what we have to obtain unnecessary luxuries while we have brothers and sisters who are without even the simplest necessities.  We take from God when we receive Holy Communion and then go and act in ways that are not befitting of Christians.

In every one of these instances we have squandered our inheritance and ended up further away from God rather than close to Him.  Our inheritance is the inheritance of the saints.  Our inheritance is the Holy Spirit and the gifts of God as well as His Kingdom.

We are very much like the son in the parable when we fall into sin and squander the grace of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit that was given to each of us at the time of our baptism and chrismation.  What is interesting is that the son came to his senses.  I wonder if we have come to our senses?  Today people seem quite content, almost at peace, with being separated from God.  Yet in the parable we see that the son was content for only a short time and later was filled with hunger and the lack of comfort and he began to think of just how much he had squandered, and just how far he had fallen.  Comfort is the mother of slavery.  Discomfort is the mother of change.

Great and Holy Lent is also a time for us to accept hunger and some lack of comfort.  The Church intends for this to be the case.  The goal of our hunger and discomfort is to spark within us a deep sense of longing.  With all due respect, this is why the fasting of some of our Roman Catholic brethren is of no great benefit.  There is no real hunger, no real discomfort, no real change in behavior.  But according to the life of the Church and her saints, there MUST be all of those things to bring us to our right mind and to kindle in us a burning desire to turn back to God and to run towards His house with all of our strength.  Lent is structured this way by the Church.  We are to grow hungry and tired and finally when we have learned to fall to our knees and pour out our hearts to God, we find that all of the Lenten services give us a way to do just that.

Comfort is the mother is slavery, discomfort is the mother of change.  This rebellious son was tired of his discomfort.  He was tired of his hunger.  He missed being under the roof of his father.  He missed the warmth, the food, the love and the care of His father.  So he decided that he must change his ways and return to his father and apologize and beg to be allowed to stay even as a simple servant in the house.

And here we see the second great truth of this passage.  Repentance opens the door to God’s immeasurable forgiveness.  You and I have sinned many times.  We’ve taken what God has given us and run with it in order to obey our won will and our own heart’s desire.  And we have found ourselves hungry for God’s love, hungry for forgiveness, hungry for a new start.  We are thankful that our God is love.  This love is open for every person on earth.  That is the good news of the gospel that we are called to spread with others.  You don’t have to be defined by your sins and your shortcomings.  Repent and Christ will define you by who He is and what He has done for you.  All our sins are insignificant next to His holiness, His righteousness and His love.  Repent in a way that demonstrates that you are ready to empty yourself and you will find that the God who emptied Himself and became a man for us is ready to fill our emptiness with His life and His energy.  To Him be the glory, majesty and honor, now and ever and unto ages of ages AMEN.

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