February 16, 2014

The Holy Prodigal and the Compassionate Father

By Monk Moses the Athonite

The Scandalous Respect for Freedom

In the Parable of the Prodigal, God the Father amazingly respects human freedom and will. The father of the parable didn't care about his authority, about what others would say about him, that he would lose his support - his child who assisted him. He is saddened by the departure but did not want to prevent it, though he could have. Sometimes the great freedom of God scandalizes. We would like Him to have more limits on us. We do not know how to appreciate and enjoy freedom. The love of the father is very noble. He wants near him children who love him and not slaves without freedom, frightened and terrified. He allows him to abuse his freedom, a very dangerous game. The fruit of a carob tree, you know, is sweet in the beginning and bitter in the end, just like sin. Without God man hungers, thirsts and is alone. An insatiable hunger and thirst, terrible loneliness. The chase for pleasure brought unbearable suffering. But the great love of his father accompanied him always. It made him not forget and be disappointed. He was completely assured of the love of his father and this saved him. What saved him also was his restless journey and his non-deferment. The salvific thought immediately was put to action.

The father waited for him, so great was his love. The Holy Fathers say the following: if this Gospel passage alone was saved out of the entire Gospel, it would be sufficient for the salvation of humanity. The parable should not be named after the prodigal son, but after the compassionate father.

The Second Prodigal

We then encounter the eldest son in the parable. He seeks a reward for his work, brags about his moral greatness and feels incomparably better than his brother. He has no desire to share in the joy of his father over the return of his lost brother. These events removed his mask, and presented him as naked of every virtue. Eventually we have two prodigal sons. The first is the youngest, who repents and returns with tears in his eyes. The second, surprisingly, is disclosed to be a prodigal even though he never left his house. He is a prodigal in the courtyard and in his thoughts, and in his heart he makes a robber's cave. Even though he enters his father's house he is a brutal and upright Pharisee, who requires of God the punishment of sinners and the justification of those like himself. Both the publican and the prodigal wept, but the Pharisee and the eldest brother didn't weep at all because they had egos that did not allow them to weep. Caution and prayer are needed that God enlighten us to discern our situation, because it is a tragedy for someone to live within the Church and yet be out of it like the eldest son.

Fathers and family leaders, parents and teachers, must tolerate children, to teach them to be lovers of honor, to teach them by their bright example; they ought to be patient, to be hopeful and to pray.

Eventually the venerable publican and the holy prodigal did this, since they spoke by their deeds of real repentance, while the "righteous" eldest son and the Pharisee required recognition and respect, and are thus unrepentant and hypocrites. They do not participate in the joy of others, and are terrible egomaniacs. Let us therefore imitate the publican and the prodigal in their repentance that we may live in paradise now.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.