The Prodigal Son - 17th Sunday of Luke

Gospel: Luke 15:11 - 32

Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."

"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.'"

"Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf. But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him. And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. I was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found."

FYI (For further information and resources visit family.goarch.org.)

This beautiful parable tells the story of the sins of a son and the unconditional love of a father. God is our Father who loves us unconditionally. Like the prodigal, we so often turn from our Father and we too must come home through humble repentance. Repentance is a turning from sin and turning toward God. It comes from seeing ourselves as we are. Our heavenly Father is eagerly waiting with open arms for us to see and turn from our sins and come home to Him.

Much is often said about the prodigal son and his father in the parable, but an equally important character is the brother. He is much like the Pharisee we read of last week, trying to measure himself by the sins of his brother. This is an easy trap to fall into with all the evil in the world. We say to ourselves, "I am not as bad as this person," or "At least, I do this." But as a Father, God loves us all; He knows our hearts and what has been given to us. Therefore, He deals with each of us individually.

For Consideration

  • What happens to the prodigal son in this story? What does the word "prodigal" mean?
  • How does his father react? How does his brother react? Who do you identify with in this parable and why?
  • Why is Jesus telling this parable? What does this Gospel passage mean for our lives?

To Do Together

  • Pin the Wings on the Angel - In this game, each family member takes a turn being blindfolded while trying to pin the wings on the angel. (You can play this game with a donkey and tail or whatever works best for your family.) Help the blindfolded person spin around a couple times before he tries to reach the goal. Family members should call out directions most of which are incorrect. After everyone has had a turn, talk about how this is similar to what the prodigal experienced - how he lost his focus and was led to a life of sin.
  • Modern-day Prodigal - Challenge your family to create a modern-day skit on this parable. Have fun with it; bring out fun costumes, music, and lighting.
  • Forgive Me - A good habit to begin is asking forgiveness from family members on mornings when you are attending Divine Liturgy. Teach your children to respond to someone that asks for forgiveness by saying, "May God forgive us both."

Final Thought

Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed again to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent.

- St. John Chrysostom

A Closing Prayer

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen.

Be quick to open unto me Your fatherly embrace, for as the prodigal I have wasted my life. In the unfailing wealth of Your mercy, O Savior, reject not my heart in its poverty. For with regret I cry to You, O Lord: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before You.

- from the Matins of the Prodigal Son

For Further Information

  • Return by Archimandrite Nektarios Antonopoulos – This book simply inspires the reader about the mysteries of repentance and confession. Published by Akritas Publications.
  • The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen – This book is a personal reflection by a renowned Christian author. In the book, the author invites readers to reflect on their personal experiences of being a prodigal son/daughter or a judgmental elder sister/brother and the call we all have to be like the compassionate Father. Published by Image Books.
  • Preparing for Holy Confession– This reflective guide assists the reader in preparing for confession by reflecting on the Ten commandments and beatitudes. It can be accessed on the Web site for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (www.goarch.org) in the "Our Faith" section.

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