We have discussed the subjects of man's free will
and examined the first of virtues humility, spiritual mourning and striving
toward God's Truth. Now, we must speak of the process of the conversion of an
erring sinner to the path of righteousness.
The parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. -32) is the best example of this process. This parable
tells us of a young son who is annoyed by the careful guardianship of his
father. The son senselessly decided to betray his father, and came to him
asking for his share of the inheritance. Having received it, he departed into a
distant country. It is clear that this senseless son represents each sinner.
Man's betrayal of God is usually manifested in this way: one receives
everything that God has given one in life, and then ceases to have fervent
faith in Him, ceases to think about Him and to love Him, and finally forgets
about His law. Is this not like the life of many contemporary intellectuals?
Overlooking what is truly essential, they live in remoteness from God.
In that far away land, so deceiving from a
distance, the senseless son squandered and wasted his possessions, living
dissolutely. Thus it is that the senseless sinner wastes his spiritual and
physical strength in the pursuit of sensual enjoyments and in "burning
through his life," and departs, in heart and soul, further and further
from His Heavenly Father.
The prodigal son, having squandered his
possessions, grew so hungry that he took a job as a swine-herd (a keeper of
animals which, according to Mosaic law, were impure).
He would have been glad to eat swine's food, but no one gave him any. Is it not
so that a sinner, entangled finally in the nets of sin, hungers spiritually,
suffers and languishes? He tries to fill his spiritual emptiness with a
whirlpool of empty pleasures, which cannot drown the torment of hunger from
which his deathless spirit grows weak.
The unfortunate-one would perish if it were not
for help from God, Who Himself said that He "does
not desire the death of the sinner, but that he should be converted and
live." The prodigal son heard the call of God's Grace and he did not push
it aside nor reject it, but accepted it. He accepted it and came to himself as
one who is in comes to himself after a terrible nightmare. There was a saving
thought: "How many of my father's hirelings
abound in bread, but I, his son, am dying from hunger."
"I shall arise," he decides, "and go to my father and say to him,
Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am not worthy to be
called your son. But accept me into the number of your hirelings." A
firm intention, a decisive resolve - he arose, "and went to his
He went, all penetrated with repentance, burning
with the consciousness of his guilt and unworthiness - and with hope on the
father's mercy. His way was not easy, but when he was yet far off, his father
saw him (it means that the father was waiting and was perhaps looking every day
to see if the son was returning). He saw and took pity, and running out, threw
his arms around his shoulders and kissed him. The son was about to begin his
confession: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I
am unworthy to be called your son." But the father did not allow him
to finish. He had already forgiven and forgotten all, and accepted the
dissolute and hungry swine-herd as a beloved son. The Lord said, "There
is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous
persons who do not have need of repentance" (Lk. 15:7).
So gradually the process of falling away and
conversion to God occurs in one. One is, as it were, lowered and then elevated
by steps. At first, betrayal of God, going away from Him to a
"distant country." In this alienation from God, there is a
complete serving of sin and passions. Finally, there is a full spiritual
bankruptcy, a spiritual hunger and darkness - the person has reached the depth
of falling. Here, however, according to the words of Apostle Paul, where sin
has multiplied, an abundance of Grace appears to instruct man. The sinner
accepts the saving, Graceful appeal (or rejects it and perishes - and alas,
this happens). He accepts it, and comes to himself, and firmly decides to part
with sin and go with repentance to the Heavenly Father. He goes along the path
of repentance, and the Father comes out to meet him and accepts him,
all-forgiven and with as much love as ever.