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February 20, 2022

Homily Three for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 Sunday of the Prodigal Son

On Shame
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1958)

The devil has laid many nets on the paths of our life, and with many passions and lusts he traps us under his power. But our Lord Jesus Christ delivers us by many grace-filled means from these devilish snares.

A very prominent place among these saving means of God's help to us, who are weak, belongs to the grace-filled and blessed parable of our Savior about the prodigal son.

You have already heard it many times shortly before the start of the fast. But everything precious and blessed must be preserved with great care and remembered more often. So, let us once again recall the precious Parable of the Prodigal Son and delve deeper into it.

In ancient times, a small family lived a quiet life, consisting of a father and two sons. The younger son was very burdened by the labor and monotonous life of the family. He longed for a cheerful and bright life, pleasures and delights. He asked his father to give him the share of the inheritance due to him and, having received it, he went to a distant country and lived there in gluttony and drunkenness, in debauchery with harlots. He lived in the heat of passions and lusts, not noticing the shame and disgrace of his behavior. He would have reached the shameful end of his dissolute life, if the Merciful God, who does not want the death of a sinner, did not stop him with His powerful hand, throwing him into the herd of pigs and forcing him to severely starve. Then the prodigal son, who had left his father's house, shuddered and came to his senses.

What do these words "came to his senses" mean? Seriously ill people who were delirious and unconscious, or who woke up after carbon monoxide poisoning, come to their senses. The prodigal son was not in such a state, but he reached a deep shameful moral fall, and when the saving hand of God touched him, he suddenly saw and understood the shame of his depraved and shameful life.

Burning shame at his disgrace and tormenting remorse made him bow his head low and look at himself through the eyes of a judge.

Shame and the loud voice of a conscience akin to shame stopped him on the path of destruction.

If the significance of shame is so great in the matter of saving the prodigal son from eternal death by the Merciful God, then, of course, we should all think deeply about the significance of shame for us. After all, we are all to a greater or lesser extent, or at least only to a small extent, like the prodigal son, and passions and lusts, of course, are not alien to us either. I said that shame and conscience are very close to each other and their significance for our moral correction is very great.

The quiet voice of conscience can be drowned out if a person chooses the path of evil, on which his conscience stops him. But it can also be strengthened, we can make it the guide of our lives, if we always listen to it sensitively.

So shame can be made a saving tool for stopping on the paths of sin, on which, without such a stop, we imperceptibly lose more and more our moral dignity.

What is needed in order to tirelessly strengthen and deepen and cultivate in your heart the saving voice of shame?

To do this, we must learn to tirelessly observe ourselves, to look at ourselves with such keen eyes as the people around us look at us. After all, you know how sharp your eyesight is for observing the moral shortcomings and vices of other people, and you know how blind your eyes are in the great work of observing yourself.

How can we get rid of this fatal blindness, how can we learn to look at ourselves through the eyes of an impartial and strict judge?

As in any difficult and important matter, here too one must learn and get used to steadily watching oneself.

Many holy fathers gave us very important advice - every day before going to bed at night, sit down and remember all your at least slightly bad deeds, words and even thoughts and ask God for forgiveness.

But you can set yourself an even more important task: not only late in the evening, but throughout the day, steadily monitor all your affairs, and most of all, your incessantly sinning tongue, remembering what the Lord Jesus Christ said: “I tell you that every idle word people say, they will give an answer for on the day of judgment: for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).

Stopped by the powerful hand of God and shaken by shame, the prodigal son came to his senses, changed his mind, got up and went on a long journey to his father, having prepared a penitential speech: “Father! I have sinned against Heaven and before you and am no longer worthy to be called your son; accept me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). But, full of love and mercy, his father hurried to meet him, interrupted his speech, hugged and kissed him and ordered his servants to bring the best clothes for him, a ring on his hand, boots on his feet, ordered to slaughter a fatted calf and arrange a feast for the return of his son.

Let us remember the words of Christ: “Therefore, I say to you, there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Oh, how we should rejoice together with the Angels of God about the deep repentance and the return to the path of salvation of our brothers and sisters! Oh, how we should have soft, compassionate hearts, and not such hard, judgmental hearts, as we see in the elder brother of the repentant prodigal son.

He was returning from the field and, having heard the joy of the feast, he was indignant and hardened and reproached his father for having met his sinful younger brother with love and forgiveness. And listen how meekly and quietly his father answered his sharp reproaches: “My son! you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours, and it was necessary to rejoice and be glad that this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found" (Lk. 15:31-32).

May our Lord Jesus Christ help us to save ourselves from the snares of the devil and sincerely, with all our hearts, rejoice in the salvation of our neighbors. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.