But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.’” (Luke 15: 17- 19)
My Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, the following sentence: “But when he came to himself…” describes gently the self-realization of failure, need and the pursuit of conversion.
I pray my words will not be hard for you to understand since the last sentence here above, depicts the lives of so many people in society who experience the outcome of failure, the need to get up and reset themselves, and the internal realization that even after being in sin and wrongness for so many years due to false pride, selfishness, ignorance, lack of love, lack of diligence, or lack of consideration to the people around them they end up burning themselves on both ends of the candle. These people are many in our society. These people are brothers and sisters of ours. These people are leaders, rich or poor, people of trade or of knowledge, people of influence or those rejected. These are people who sometimes make history deviate from its original course as they end up causing major stress around them. These are the people who need to relate to God first of all, then to their neighbor and to the entire society.
In the case of the prodigal son, or the returning son, or the lost son according to the Gospel of Saint Luke (15: 11- 32), these people usually have talents and resources, they have been in houses where they were brought up by responsible parents, and they were given many opportunities to lead in society. Except, that for some curse that is unknown to the normal people, these people end up squandering the resources they had, whether of time, of talent, or of actual money and they misspend their talents.
I will explain myself. If I go to my father and tell him I am going to take my inheritance from you while you are alive, what would I do with the money I got from him? In the gospel, the younger brother did not do any business. He did not start any trade. He did not put the money he inherited in the bank, nor did create a business for himself which could have helped him and others. He did not even give any consideration to fairly distributing this money or doing something good with it. He was not charitable; not with himself and not towards others. He, instead, spent his money on prostitutes and without any accountability.
This is foolish and not right. Therefore, the famine hit. Therefore, war happened. Yes, it is true that sometimes, when we are given resources, we keep them to ourselves, not putting them to good use, not creating with them in order to make peace around us or abundance for us and others. Sometimes we make a mess with our lack of fair distribution that causes injury for us and for others. We end up in the position of “entitlement to spend” but not “responsibility to maintain and produce”.
This is a sin. It is, first of all, a sign of a curse that indicates that people who are like the little son are not capable of love. Not loving one’s self, in a way, is a sin and a tragedy. There are, on the other hand, many people who are so much in love with themselves but, not the right way. Not the good love. It is the selfish love. The love that does not see the needs of others, and dismisses the talents in themselves.
Enough being said about the younger son at the time of his foolishness. Now let us look at when and why the young man come to the self-realization of failure, of need, and the pursuit of conversion?
Of course, when the war hit, he had to eat with the pigs. He had to be full of impurity and low self-esteem. The young man came to realize that he is dead. He is not alive. He is lost. He can no longer be found.
To help us better understand what the Prodigal back to his father’s house, I would like to tell you about Mr. Adrian Dagher and Mr. Gerard AbiAssaf, two of my associates who joined Bishop Elias Zaidan and myself this week in Washington DC leading advocacy meetings with senior advisors from the White House and the State Department and with members of the House of Representatives. Both have helped me this week and served as field experts with refugees in Lebanon and officers of engagement programs for young people in America. They performed as a skilled team of Senior Young Diplomats. One told the stories of the Christian refugees in Lebanon, while the other was the leading analyst in our meeting. In our last meeting Thursday, right before I went to the Congress to speak before a panel that celebrated the first anniversary of House Concurrent Resolution 75 and the State Department’s proclamation of Genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East, Mr. Andy Dagher spoke to us about the problem of young people in general. Young people, he told us, are being initiated to become “sheep-ple” instead of “people”. The only remedy for this sad reality is to regrow with knowledge and information the capacity of “Intellectual Compassion and Sympathy” in their hearts. How does this get achieved? Young people must ask themselves, “What If I’m wrong?” Unfortunately, if they fail to ask themselves this question, they might end up a source of sadness for themselves, and it will be only a matter of time until they find themselves in the same shoes of the young man in our story: lost and dead, cause of wars, false sympathy and the reason for many injustices in the world.
Mr. Gerard AbiAssaf, our other Senior Young Diplomat, gave his evaluation based on the internal struggle of self-denial that the young people suffer from. Young people, most of the time, reject everything. They preach a nihilism of virtues and of clear morals and life orientation, but they never say what it is that they want. They become, in this regard, the “engine of nihilism, the power of absence of life in all its forms” thinking that this the way to fit everyone around them in one big room, where all become equal. But to what? To the absence of the Model.
In this case, the harm is even more intrinsic to life itself. There won’t be a clear path for life anymore. It is the sign of total death.
In conclusion, I realized from the experiences of Adrian and Gerard, that the virtue of the young man is that he was lost because of allowing himself to become a “sheep-ple” instead of a “People”, and he decided to heal himself by “Coming back to himself.” As a consequence, the young man healed himself by coming to his senses, which means the young man finally experienced the virtue of “intellectual sympathy and compassion” which led him to rise again and go to his father’s house.
Gerard’s statement also allowed me to conclude, that while the young man took all his father’s inheritance to squandered it, he was dying from life, to the absence of all resources, He cut himself from the Tree, he starved his resources from being connected to the source of richness: his father, or the trade that he would have generated had he learned from his father. Therefore, again using “intellectual sympathy and compassion,” the young man realized that he was in nihilism of all forms of life. He knew he was dead. He decided to come back to life.
I don’t want to speak about the experience of the older brother, except that the older brother has no Mercy, and does not recognize the power of forgiveness in his father. This is a sin by itself. Both needed a conversion. Both needed to learn that in the father’s house there is room for everyone who is looking to be found after having been lost, and for everyone who is looking to be alive again after being dead.
God bless you all. May this Sunday of the Prodigal Son teach us the value of the Merciful Love of the Father and the beauty of humility so we can come back home to our church and heal from our iniquities and sins.
Fr Andre Y Sebastian Mahanna