By St. John Maximovitch
"And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that fall to me'" (Luke 15:11-32).
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a most instructive lesson for youth. We see in the prodigal son the true character of flighty youth: light-minded, thoughtless, thirsting for independence; in short, everything that usually distinguishes the majority of youths.
The younger son grew up in his parents’ house. On reaching adolescence, he already began to imagine that life at home was too restrictive. It seemed unpleasant to him to live under his father’s rule and his mother’s watchful eye.
He wanted to imitate his comrades, who had given themselves up to the pleasures of the world. “I am the heir of a rich estate. Would it not be better,” he reasoned, “if I received my inheritance now? I could manage my wealth differently than my father does.” Thus the light-minded youth was carried away by the deceitful glitter of the world’s pleasures and decided to throw off the yoke of obedience and to depart from his parents’ home.
Are not many inspired by similar impulses today, and, while they may not leave their parents’ home, do they not depart from the home of their Heavenly Father, that is, from obedience to the Holy Church?
The yoke of Christ seems difficult for immature minds, and His commandments burdensome. They think that it is not really necessary to keep that which God and His Holy Church command us. To them it seems possible to serve God and the world at the same time.
They say, “We are already strong enough to withstand destructive temptations and seductions. We can hold onto the truth and sound teachings by ourselves. Allow us to perfect our minds through acquiring many kinds of knowledge. Let us strengthen our wills ourselves amid temptations and seductions. Through experience our senses will become convinced of the vileness of vice!” Are such desires any better than the ill-considered request of the younger son to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that fall to me?”
And so, a light-minded youth ceases to heed the commandments and admonitions of the Holy Church. He ceases to study the word of God and the teachings of the Holy Fathers, and listens intently to the sophistries of those who are falsely-called teachers, and in these pursuits he kills the best hours of his life. He goes to church less frequently or stands there inattentively, distracted. He does not find the opportunity to devote himself to piety and to exercise himself in the virtues, because he spends so much time attending shows, public entertainments, etc.
In a word, with each day he gives himself up more and more to the world, and, finally, he goes off to “a far country.”
What is the result of such an estrangement from the Holy Church? It is the same as the result of the prodigal son’s leaving his parents’ house. Light-minded youths very quickly waste their excellent energies and talents of soul and body, ruining for time and eternity all the good they have done. Meanwhile, there appears “a mighty famine in that land”: emptiness and dissatisfaction — the inevitable result of wild pleasures.
A thirst for enjoyments appears, which intensifies with the gratifying of wanton passions, and finally becomes insatiable. It often happens that the unfortunate lover of the world, in order to gratify his passions, resorts to base and shameful pursuits, which do not bring him to his senses like the prodigal son and do not return him to the path of salvation, but complete his ruin, both temporal and eternal!