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What the Parable of the Lost Son Tells Us About Human Freedom

Thoughts on Human Freedom on the Sunday of the Lost Son

the Sunday of the Lost Son

We like our freedom. We want to have as much of it as possible, and we want it now. We are impatient to cast away all constraints to our free wills. In the coming week, we will reflect on the Gospel's parable of the Lost Son. We can recognise ourselves in him. He loved his father and enjoyed good company. But most of all, he loved his freedom.

In the house of his father, he had his father’s love and shared his labours. He obeyed and humbled himself. At some point, the constraints to his freedom seemed unbearable, and he wished to try a different life. He wanted it more than anything else, and so he treated his father with icy cruelty. He demanded his share of the estate, which was tantamount to renouncing him and crossing him out of his life. He departed to a distant country, where he could finally do whatever he pleased.

But having rejected his father's love, the Lost Son set himself up for slavery, not freedom; for freedom without love quickly turns us into slaves. He saught nothing but his pleasure, loved nobody but himself and lived a wild life. He squandered his father's estate quickly. With freedom, but no love, he became a slave. He was feeding swine, but he was not getting any food himself. He was despised and ridiculed. His friends left him. He was now completely alone.

But deep in his heart, his love for His father was still alive. He got up and went to him. (Luke 15:20). How can we imagine what he was feeling? Perhaps we could begin to understand his condition if we recalled some similar events that may have happened in our lives - like coming back to someone we had betrayed, rejected or ridiculed. But the Lost Son went to his father in the firm belief that even if he did not call him his son, he would have him back at least as his slave.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov of Sarov commented on this parable, "The single difference between a righteous man and a sinner is decisiveness." The righteous ones will take the courage to change their ways. Conversely, sinners will keep on living with the pigs, justifying themselves, "That is the way life is. I did not leave my father without a reason. He was making me work and live according to his rules. I could not stay because I like freedom. It has not worked out, but what can I do?"

The Sunday of the Lost Son continues our preparation for the Great Lent. His story encourages us to look deep into our hearts and question ourselves, "Are my life, talent and skills a gift of God or my achievement? What is more important for me - my momentary desires, the illusion of my freedom, or lasting love and faith? Have I come to my senses, or do I still want to live without my Father, hoping to return to Him when I find convenient?"

Those who have come to their senses and returned to the Father should equally pay attention to the Gospel verses about celebrating the return of those who were lost and are found. All older brothers should learn to embrace with gladness their younger ones those who repent. That can be very, very difficult indeed.

So let us pray for the return from the distant country of all His children, so they would find freedom from the slavery to their passions. Let us also pray that the Lord will give us the strength to come to our senses, go back to Him and rejoice at the return of everyone who does the same. For the Lord will embrace everyone. "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" declares the Sovereign Lord. "Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"

February 28, 2024
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