CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
JUNE 2008 DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE
VOL:07 ISSUE:06

THE LOST SON
By GEEVARGHESE MAR ATHANASIOS EPISCOPA
[Diocesian Bishop of Ranni Diocese, Marthoma Church]




RT. REV.
GEEVARGHESE MAR
ATHANASIOS EPISCOPA

'For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.' [St. Luke 15:24,32]

In the two above cited Bible references, the Verse 24 is told by the father to the servants and the Verse 32 is told by the father to his elder son.

What is after all Christianity? It is the utter response of gratitude for almost unbelievable love of God. Gratitude is uniquely a religious virtue. Our gratitude for the astounding love expressed on the cross can be rewarded only by our life. This great exposure of love should entice us for the Word of God. The Word of God strengthens us. The word of God enlightens us. The word of God influences our life deeply. The entire modern world has become intensely commercialized and the cheapest commodity available in this market is human life. Increasingly today, commerce is the very definition of life.

Hall Valentine is a philosopher comedian. His story is being unveiled on the stage. When the curtain of the stage is raised there is pitch darkness. There is one spot of light on one side of the stage from an electric streetlight at far. One man is searching something there. A police came for his help and started searching along with the man. Police came to know from him that his house key is lost and the man is searching for the key. The police asked the man; 'Are you sure that your key is lost here?' The man bluntly replied, 'No, my key is lost on the other side of the stage.' The policeman asked him again, 'then why are you searching here?' The man replied; 'On that side there is no light, but here there is light and that is why I am searching here.' We all are searching our lost things in wrong place. At the place where it is lost, there is no light available.

In the Bible we read of many parables to the same purport of lost things; 'Parable of the lost coin', 'Parable of the Lost Sheep' and here the 'Parable of the lost son'. What is lost for the modern man is the peace of life. We are circling round the sight lit by the glitter and glamour of this world. We are suffering the disaster of a misguided search. Though we got our Lord to guide us, we refuse Godís help and guidance.

A number of appellation could be attached to the parable of Prodigal Son, narrated by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32. Some of them are Parable of the Prodigal Son, Parable of the Lost Son, and Parable of the Loving Father. The prefix 'prodigal' is used neither by Jesus nor by the father in the story. This son is a repented and newborn person; still world loves to identify him with the moniker attached to the Prodigal Son. We should use this prefix to exemplify the magnificent generosity of this father. So an apt name for this story can be, 'The lost son and prodigal magnificence of the father'. But we fail to comprehend that this man whom we prefix with prodigal is an invitation to discern between life and death to make our life relevant and meaningful. All ingredients and factors needed to redirect our life are available in this parable. This father was extremely loving and of unlimited extravagance of nobility. The real love does not stop to calculate less or more but the divine extravagance it gives and never count the past. Reckless extravagance is better than cautious economy.

There is no need to be miserly in spirituality. The care of God of heaven takes of poor wandering sinners. Heaven's whole energy is used to search for the squandered ones. Though He has a hundred sheep, a considerable flock, yet He will not lose that one which goes astray. The repentance and conversion of sinners on earth are matter of joy and rejoicing in heaven.

We can analyze few aspects attributed to this parable and make our mediation for a transformation of our life and to commence with a new search and a new journey.

  1. Diseased Action:
    Those who destroy themselves with foolish lusts, or deceive themselves with foolish hopes; they all are diseased persons, ardent enemy to their own cure. Their actions are diseased actions. A sinful state is a state of madness and frenzy. Nowadays, across our land, we see a new phenomenon of actions caused by the disease of the land property. We perceive a pursuit after property. As per design of the character and case of this younger lost son, the life is to be built up on property at the expense of relationship and relations. In earlier days, physical strength and intelligence were considered the prime factors of life. The modern man thinks that the might and mind can be bought out of wealth. The Sunday school lessons are now denigrated to an old riddle. The reverse ideology is given way to the modern world as, if character is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost something is lost and if the wealth is lost everything is lost.

    The great folly on his part, which ruined him, was being impatient of restraint to have his portion in hand, now at this time, while his father was alive, active and act as the head of the home. Instant riches became a mantra of the modern society. There is no relation or relationship once this property or wealth disease is caught. Soon after gathering together all his shares the strayed son took his journey into a far country, very much out of the sight of his father, removing himself from all contact with his loving father and household.

    He very well knew that this share of property belongs to him after his father's time but son wanted to consider the death of his father prematurely by his unjustified demands. He was distrustful of his fatherís management and considered his father is already dead or wished so, no mourning come for such incident. Though the father was conversing with the son, the father was dead in the heart of the son. Which lover sings a joyous song when he partakes from the beloved? What heart ever relish at the moment of farewell? It is the gray and fearless daunts when you have to say good buy. But here the heart of the father throbbed but the heart of the son turned merrier. The hot tears of the father had fallen on the share property of the son. Son needed everything instant. Instant wealth, instant coffee, instant pain relief, miracles, magic etc., etc. The younger brother wanted to outsmart the elder by getting and selling his share property. Heritage, culture and tradition were nothing in front of him. He went to foreign land so that he will be far away from the sight of his father. He thought of unexplored possibility of the new land. The glamour of the foreign land attracted him. Once he was critical of his homeland but uncritically embraced the foreign land.

    Another disease of the contemporary society is pleasure. At the time of Jesus, pleasure and entertainment were part of life and now pleasure and entertainment are part of industry. Jesus enjoyed the pleasure of sleeping on the boat. Jesus enjoyed the pleasure of mingling with children. These were the pleasure as part of life.

  2. Dreadful Landing:
    Son never felt the seriousness of the new avenues. When the famine came, then only he understood its seriousness. Power, property, money, pleasure-oriented life, all may take of wealth for sometime but usually end up in crash landing. He had crash-landed to the new land. When the poverty is stricken, his eyes were open. When he lived among the pigs, he remembered of his golden old days. He lost everything in the crash landing. Once he was a valuable and dear commodity in the market. But the market itself has crashed. Money only matters in the market. Once money is lost there no chance of any mercy. The river over flown with fortunes had disappeared in no time and it merged somewhere into the horizon. Now he came to know that his pursuit of life was towards nonsense. He lived in a world, which celebrate nonsense as life.

  3. Dramatic discovery:
    The most important statement Jesus Christ has made about this lost son is that of a dramatic discovery; "But when he came to his senses...". He discovered that the hired men of his father's house have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! He would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, but no one was giving anything to him. This was dramatic discovery of the lost son. Once he came to his sense he knew that his pursuit of life was behind a world, which celebrates idiocy and vanity of life. We are embracing a dehumanized life and eventually we are embracing death. We have forfeited our life to listen to moral and spiritual issues. When this young manís tumult had brought him to want and in turn his want brought him to servitude.

  4. Daring Return:
    It needs a courage to return to a new life. Many people repent but donít dare for a turn. The repentance of the lost son had two aspects. He understood the depth and intensity of his fall. Our inability to diagnose our own malady makes our state more critical. Once we live in the sickness of sin, we get lost in itself. Once we get lost so, we loose our fortitude for a come back. The lost son rose from his plight with the remaining little breathe in him and very bravely says himself, I will go back to my father's house. His daring return was a journey with an aim. If we read the words from Verse 22 to 32 and carefully analyze, we notice that the father talks to servant and he talks to the elder son, but he did not say a single word to the lost son. This was a holy silence of no need of spoken words. The father says many things to the crowd around him. But he tells twice that his son was dead, one to the servants and another to the elder son.

  5. Discovery of Life:
    We have here his return from this ramble, his penitent return to his father again. Eventually the young son discovered his life. The man who commanded to 'give' now beg to father to 'make' him even a servant. Here the father makes us to understand the difference between life and death. My son was dead, but now he is living. The power and truthfulness of the father make him to announce twice this fact. He called his brothers, relatives, son; servants and all in the household to declare the fact that his dead son is now living. What a father is this? What a loving father is this? This father is none other than Jesus Christ! This father is none other than the heavenly God! The parable represents God as a common Father to all mankind rich in mercy to all that call upon him.

    The son believed that the melodious life is only in the nightclub. But here he understood that the life is in the melody of his fatherís house. The music and dancing was not only in the nightclub where he was, but also it was there in his father's place too. He could differentiate between the music and dancing in the brothel and that in his father's house. The music and dancing in his fatherís house was around the love of the father while the music and dancing he enjoyed outside was the deadly action of the horrible pit and miry clay. A sinful state is a state of death. "Now He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm." He learned what he enjoyed outside his father's house were temporal, covet and only an instant gratification, but have no care for a future felicity.

    He said within himself, he reasoned with himself, which is the first step towards conversion and he determined what to do and what to say to his father. True repentance is a rising, and coming to God. First, he would confess his fault and folly: 'I have sinned to you and to heaven'. He came home in rags, and his father not only clothed him, but also adorned him, put a ring on his hand, a signet-ring, in presence of the family, in token of his being owned and reinstated as a member of the family. The loving father put on him the best robe. He came home barefoot, but the father worn him sandals.

Now the Lost son is not a wavered traveler. Now he got a goal in his life. Now he is dancing to the tune of a different drum. Now he got a new tune in his mouth. Now he received a new song and new prayer in his lips. The father had broken all the limits to adorn his dead son who came to life once again. When the storms are on the deep, is there any safety like the power of a great affection.

This ring is the seal of our holy life. This seal keep us away from the sin. This seal make us to stay joined with the trinity. Those who are far, and who are near, redeemed by the Victorious Cross of the Lord are sealed with the Holy Baptism. The Holy Trinity absolves us from our debts; forgive our offenses by virtue of this seal. This seal make us to be the Princes and Princesses in the presence of the King of Kings. The son who is called prodigal had become loving son, no more he is prodigal. Those who are seen sanctified with this seal are the blessed.

[Extract from Devotional Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2008
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]


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