The third Sunday in preparation for Great Lent celebrates the passage of Luke 15:11-12 about the Prodigal Son (commemorated this year on February 28, 2016). I had heard dozens of sermons over my lifetime of this popular passage, but until I heard the sermon from Father Bill a week and a half ago and read Father Alexander Schmemann’s book, Great Lent, did I really come to a deeper understanding of what the author is trying to communicate in this Gospel parable.
Schmemann points out that in order to truly understand Christianity, one must have experienced the true feeling of being exiled from God, even if just very briefly. Once we realize our removal from everything that is pure and beautiful do we learn repentance (returning to God). Schmemann goes on to state that the Church is here to remind us that we have deviated from our love for God.
Father Bill, our parish priest at St. Elizabeth, expounded with even more revelation. He stated that it is in our daily prayers, our following the seasonal and weekly fasts, our reading of the Scriptures, our attending Divine Liturgy and partaking of the Holy Mysteries, remembering the saints, helping those in need, and so many more things in which we are called, do we truly demonstrate our love and desire to return to the Father. (Please note that in no way do we practice that works save us, because that is heretica–please do not misunderstand what is being said here).
There is so much more to unpack with the Prodigal Son, but this particular Sunday for me was very eye-opening. I was reminded of how intimate the Church’s presence in my relationship with God is. I cannot imagine being isolated and trying to figure any of this out on my own and I am thankful for this preparation season before we enter in to Great Lent.
If you want to check out the first two Sundays in preparation of Great Lent, please refer to my earlier posts:
Week 1 Pre-Lent: Zacchaeus Sunday
Week 2 Pre-Lent: The Publican and the Pharisee