IN this morning’s Gospel lesson, the very famous story of the Prodigal Son, we read of the young man who asks from his father his inheritance…..and his Father obliges him. So what does the Son do with this blessing he has received? He uses it to rebel AGAINST his father, whom was the bestower of the blessing, and blessed him with FREEDOM to make his own choices in what to do with his inheritance. He journeyed to a far country and wasted it in prodigal living. The Church fathers say that the prodigal is an image of Adam who represents ALL of humanity…all of US. Adam was given many blessings….life, a soul, a body and like the prodigal, blessed with freedom to choose for himself how to use. And like our Prodigal, Adam chose to spend his inheritance in exile, in isolation from God. This is the meaning of our Prodigal’s journey to a FAR Country. Exile from God. And indeed, is not the story of humanity in general? And of our OWN lives in particular? We do not use God’s blessings to glorify Him or to serve our fellow man….we waste our inheritance in selfishly gratifying our sinful urges.
St. Paul makes this practical for us in today’s epistle reading as he talks about one such gift from God, that we exploit in our rebellion against Him. Paul stresses the freedom that we have in saying “All things are lawful for me.” Just like the father of the prodigal did not attempt to control how the son spent his inheritance, so too Our Lord has made all things lawful for us in the sense that he has given us freedom to Act. But St. Paul goes on to say, that while all things are lawful to him….he can choose to do A or B….not all things are helpful…..he can make choices that will lead to life in His Father’s House….or he can make choices that lead to his descent into a miserable life keeping company with pigs…
The specific gift that St. Paul is referring to, is our bodily existence. Unlike the stomach which is made for food, and food for the stomach, Paul insists that the body is not made for sexual immorality. There are many in our society who attempt to say that fulfilling bodily urges, specifically sexual urges is necessary for the body. IN fact our culture is built upon this premise. Whatever gratifies me I should pursue it. If it feels good, do it.
St. Paul says, that on the contrary the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. There is a use of our inheritance that leads to life in our Father’s kingdom, and a use that leads to isolation, meaninglessness and debauchery.
Brothers and sisters, is not this life apart from God that we have chosen as a culture? Just reading some statistics on pornography shows us how far that we have fallen. The number one term searched for on Google? Sex. The number one business on the internet? Porn. Pornography is a 13 Billion dollar a year business. If you add together the proceeds of the NBA, the NFL and MLB they don’t make enough money combined to outweigh the proceeds of the porn industry.
Our youth are affected by this …1 in the 3 13 year olds in this country have viewed pornography in the last year. Sociologists tell us that among our youth, Dating is out of fashion, going the way of “courtship.” Instead, young people look to “hook up,” that is pursue someone to have sexual intimacy with no “string attached,” no commitment. Along with that is the idea of “friends with benefits,” that is friends who will give you sexual favors, with again, no strings attached.
50% of Christian men are said to have a serious porn addiction.
St. Paul puts its bluntly: “Flee sexual immortality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know, that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have of God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
When we do otherwise, we suffer for it. We waste the good gifts God has given too pursue things that give no meaning. Ultimately the fun wears off and leads to a joyless, sad isolated existence. We end up envying the food of pigs. This applies to all of us, for as St. Paul says elsewhere, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all guilty of wasting our inheritance to one degree or another, and we suffer for it.
But of course today’s parable does not end there, and it is a source of hope for all of us. For the Lord tells us that this prodigal “Came to his senses.” He realized that even his father’s servants have plenty of eat, while he was perishing with hunger. So he made a decision. “I will arise and go to my father’s house and will say to him: ‘father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.” That’s great, but this conclusion wouldn’t have done him any good if he continued to lie there in the muck. How often do we make a decision like his but continue on in our condition….what was important is the Scriptures say He arose! Repentance is not just a cognitive decision….it takes action on our part. We can’t just regret what we’ve come to, we have to get up and return to where we know we belong.
So he arose and went home, and contrary to his expectations, His father saw him afar off and ran to him and fell on his neck and kissed him. He had his servants put his best robe on him, and a ring on his finger….restoring him to full sonship. They killed the fatted calf and celebrated the lost son who had returned.
Brothers and sisters: you may have made terrible decisions in your life. You may have wasted the good things that God has given to you. You may have used your body in ways that have brought you to ruin. You may have left your father’s house in pursuit of the good time and pleasing yourself. But you don’t have to stay there. You don’t have to eat the food of pigs. Your Father in heaven is waiting and watching for your return. BUT you have to decide to do so. YOU have to come to your senses and decide to reject the way that you have been living. You have to decide to return to you Fathers house…and you must arise and do so. For he is waiting for you to return with open arms, and to restore you to life that you were meant for as his son or daughter. Don’t lay in the pigsty any longer.