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Embrace the Journey Home: Reflecting on the Prodigal Son

Homily on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Father Sergiy Nezhbort

In the realm of art, there exists a profound work by the esteemed Dutch master Rembrandt, titled “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” Its depth, coupled with an unassuming simplicity, is truly remarkable. Those among you who have had the privilege of beholding it will grasp my meaning; for those yet to experience its beauty, I urge you to seek out a fine reproduction. This masterpiece encapsulates, with unparalleled human expressiveness, the profound essence and enigma of the Gospel's Parable of the Prodigal Son. Indeed, in this depiction, each of us can see a reflection of oneself.

Yearly, before Lent commences, we turn our attention to this parable, a gentle nudge reminding us of the chance to begin anew. Our missteps are not always monumental, yet frequently our lives veer off course. We embark on a superficial existence, apparently succeeding, yet our hearts and souls yearn for something profoundly different.

The journey back is essential, accompanied by the belief that this return is not a path fraught with rejection and reproach but a heartfelt homecoming, a return to a place of unconditional welcome and warmth, irrespective of our present selves.

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This concept of return is mirrored in the Sacrament of Repentance, in confession, where one approaches God with a plea akin to that of the prodigal son: “Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned.” Regrettably, in my role, hearing numerous confessions, it's apparent that not all reach this depth of 'homecoming.' For some, confession is merely a recitation of deeds; for others, a blindness to their own failings. A distinct difference emerges between the devout churchgoer and one who has yet to fully embrace the Church, primarily due to fear of confronting their own imperfections. In hospital confessions, this dichotomy is stark, with individuals outwardly seeking divine assistance yet, upon enquiry, claiming a faultless life.

- “Perhaps your thoughts sometimes falter?” I probe.
- “No, my thoughts remain pure,” comes the reply.
- “But surely, you seek repentance?”
- “Indeed, I am deeply repentant,” they assert, yet without acknowledging any specific transgression.

Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn. “Return of the Prodigal Son”

Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn. “Return of the Prodigal Son”, 1663-1669. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

This dialogue underscores a crucial understanding: without God's grace, our very existence is precarious. It is this acknowledgment that strips away our rose-tinted view, enabling a truthful examination of ourselves and our surroundings. The opportunity for a ‘return’ is always present, beckoning us home to start afresh. The essence lies in God’s perpetual wait for us, though it behooves us not to delay unduly. Plans for return can easily be thwarted by distractions, leading to an eternal postponement of this crucial journey. Thus, it is imperative to awaken swiftly to our reality, earnestly uttering to God, “Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned.”

May the Lord assist us in overcoming lethargy, in eschewing self-justification and blame, urging us instead to introspect, recognizing our own failings as the initial step on our path back to God, to our true home.

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Delivered on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Feb. 04, 2018

Priest Sergius Nezhbort

February 28, 2024
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