On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Saint Paul carries us to a place of discomfort before we get to hear the parable from our Lord. He tells us clearly that our body no longer belongs to us, as he says clearly, “you are not your own.” For when we accepted baptism into Christ, we put on Christ. And in putting Him on, we gave our bodies to be His, we became the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Why is this important on this day? Because as we consider the parable of the prodigal, we need to recognize in him that part of us that wants to conform to the world, and not to the Father’s love for us. We, like him, are enticed beyond our limits to resist, and we choose to spend our precious Father-given resources on things that give momentary pleasure to the body, and simultaneously steal away precious opportunity to grow in spirit.
I can hear you resist. “Father, I don’t spend wantonly on the kinds of things that the parable implies were the focus of the prodigal.”
Let’s use the Lord’s own words and try to understand His meaning, and how it indeed relates to all of us.
St. Luke says, “The younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
The word used for “journeyed” is apodemeo, which means to go abroad, to visit a foreign land. Whenever we leave the love of the Father, we place ourselves outside His love, which is a place foreign to His created home for us. He created us to be with Him. We neither will nor can we be fulfilled, satisfied, happy outside of being in His presence.
The word used for “far country” is chora, which translates to not just any ‘place,’ but an empty expanse, a place where nothing of import is. It is the root from which we get the English word “chasm”.
The word used for “wasted” is diaskorpizo, which means to simply strew or scatter. Literally it indicates that the prodigal could have taken all that the Father had and simply cast it to the wind, and the result would have been the same.
The Greek word translated as “prodigal” is asotos, and it carries the meaning of living riotously, dissolutely, giving absolutely no care for the morality or lack thereof of the actions. The English meaning of “prodigal” means “recklessly extravagant.” We need say no more.
Most of us earn comfortable livings. How many things have I made into “gods” for myself? Television? Radio? Social media? Internet in general?
How many things do I on a daily basis give attention to that promote my own connection to the Father? Almsgiving? Praying for others? Reading scripture? Visiting the sick or imprisoned?
You see, we’re all straying in that empty expanse that the world attempts to convince us is in fact important, when in reality the world’s ‘important’ causes us to stray further from the Father and His love.
Our bodies are not our own. We gave them freely as a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. By our ways of life, are we daily welcoming Him and living in His love, or are we driving Him out and boarding the doors?
The temple of the Holy Spirit must ever be open, so that the Father’s love will remain on us, in us, with us, as we attempt not to serve our own flesh, but to serve the least of His brethren.
Time grows short. We must seek His forgiveness, return to Him with the same repentant heart that the prodigal discovered.
The Father is looking for us, as well, waiting, for until we find our own repentance, we too are dead to eternal life, wasting our precious God-given life in this foreign land. He waits to embrace us, too, seeing us chose His life by repenting for our own prodigal living.