One truth the Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us, is that no matter what we may have done in our past, God will never stop loving us. Too often, we hesitate returning to God and His Church, thinking we are no longer worthy of God’s love. Unfortunately, we cannot experience God’s love remaining in the foreign land of sin, and the decision to return home to God and His Church will always be welcomed with open arms.
One of the big challenges in being a Christian is understanding God’s love. We read the Old Testament and hear many stories of the pain and suffering of God’s people. Slavery, lost in the desert, conquered by foreign kingdoms. And these are the sufferings AFTER God had chosen His people. What about being banished from the Garden or drowned in the Flood because they weren’t on the Ark? Does this sound like a God that loves us no matter what?
Being honest about who we are and how we live is a crucial part of every Christian journey. We are fooling ourselves with sinful pride if we think we are any better than other person in the Church, or anywhere else we may encounter them. Being honest with ourselves, which is pure Christian humility, is the center of the first Sunday of the Triodion and Great Lenten Journey. Rather than calling out, “Thank you God!” that we are not like the other sinners out there, it would be infinitely better for us to cry, “Have mercy on me a sinner!”
“Thank you God, that I am not like all those other sinners in the Church today!” These words echo the voice of the Pharisee in today’s Gospel lesson. If we are honest with ourselves, each of us has at one time or another said something just like this to God. Oh sure, we may use words more like, “I haven’t had and really big sins, not like others I know,” but truthfully we are always comparing our sin against the sins of others in order to comfort ourselves into thinking we don’t have anything to worry about when Judgment Day comes.
Have you ever asked God for something only to wait and wait and wait without an answer? God always answers prayers with one of three options: ‘yes’, ‘no’, or some variation of ‘let’s wait and see.’ Are you patient enough to wait for His answer? It requires a great faith to allow God the time He chooses in answering our prayers, and even deeper faith when the answer is ‘no’ because sometimes we just ask for our own selfish desires.
When Jesus encountered the Canaanite Woman who had been asking for the healing of her daughter, His initial response was to ignore her. In fact, He tried twice to put her off, and not response even saying, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." (Matthew 15.26) but she was relentless in her call, “Lord have mercy on me!” Eventually her daughter was healed, as Christ honored her deep faith, "O woman, great is your faith!
When God gives us gifts, He does so with a purpose. He doesn’t just give us gifts for us to bury and give back to Him someday unused. In the Parable of the Talents, we learn about the risk in not doing anything with the gifts that God has given to us, in particular, the gift of the Church and the Orthodox way of life. God has given the Church to us for us to take the Church out into the world to grow the Church and return it to Him increased.
In the Parable of the Talents found in the Gospel of Matthew 25.14-30, which is meant to help us understand how God will judge each member of the Church, only one servant is condemned as wicked, lazy and worthless. He was condemned because he hid the talents that his master had given him, rather than using the talents to accomplish the will of his master. The others in the parable were praised because they were faithful to their master and used the talents for his will. They were escorted into the kingdom.