Two ways

I'm sure that all Christians are familiar with a famous biblical parable about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11 - 32). Even if someone hadn't read it personally, he must have heard it from others for many times.

It says about father and his two sons. The younger son got annoyed with living under parental care, and he took his share of the property and went away to look for better life. Unfortunately, his attempt turned out to be unsuccessful - having spent all his savings, after long wondering and humiliating life he decides to go back to his father in obedience, hoping that he will treat him at least like a servant. The elder son had been with father for all the time, helping him to conduct housekeeping.

Let's consider this parable in more details. How did the sons live before younger decided to go into the world? What was their father like?

It's easy to understand that the father was strict enough and educated his children according to the Law, this included total obedience and gave all authority to parents. Actually the elder son, after his younger brother return, helps us understand this, when he says to his father: "...For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. " (Luke 15:29).

So, the family had been living modestly, without extra spendings and feasts. But younger son saw how other people live. He wanted to party, to have fun, he longed to women, to vine, to other ‘pleasures', which he could not get because of the Law that reigned in their home. It would be wrong to think that elder son didn't want that too because he dreamt about a calf and fun with friends. Yes, both of them wanted freedom, but thanks to harder character one could subordinate his life to the Law and his father, the other could not.

What can we compare life of sons in father's home to? This is life in the Church. Life according to God's and Church commandments to which God calls us. This is life in obedience, even though our heart longs to sin and to the forbidden.

Until sons were with father, he helped them with his authority to struggle, protected them from evil, from the world to which his young sons longed. Even though they were not very pleased with such care, they were totally protected. Of course, they could not understand why should they live so modestly when their friends of the same age lived in luxury and had fun as they wished.

Doesn't this look like us - Catholics? We go to Church, try to fulfill all God's commandments, but sometimes we with envy look at those who don't need all this, their lives seam saturated, happier, in one word: better. But because of different reasons we remain faithful to our faith, to our parent's home i.e. to the Church.

There are, of course, ‘younger brothers', who demand their share of the heritage and go into the world. The heritage which our Lord gives us is our free will, the right to choose our way of life, the right to choose between life according to our desires and life according to given commandments. Very often, relying on our wisdom, we are sure that we can make our life better by our personal strength. After a while we start to feel that we do not already need prayer, the Mass, the Church and even God. At first, we as if feel happy the same way the younger son from the parable did until he had money to luxuriate and have fun, but then...

The most important here is not that he had spent all the money - he lost his free will. Often it seams to us that Church's and God's law only manacle us, only limit our free will. Leaving the Church life, we, on the contrary, get the feeling of complete freedom.

In the Roman Church the Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred on children of 10-12 years old. Only 5% of them remain faithful to the Church, the rest comes only to get married. Most of those who have been conferred this Sacrament will say to God: « I'm free at last! Now, when I've received all necessary Holy Sacraments, I don't have to live in a way the Church teaches, now I can do anything I want. At last I'm free!» Yonger son from the parable is an example of the end of such a freedom. By the way, to feed pigs had been the most humiliating task for the Jew of that time, and he wasn't even allowed to eat pig's food (that's how the search for a better life finishes for the younger son).

What had been left from his freedom?

Most of those who left the Church find themselves in hard servitude which they don't recognize themselves. It's alcogol, drugs, fornication, materialism and many-many other things which they can not reject. They fall into deep depression which may consequence in different mental illnesses.

Unfortunately, at west (and in Ukraine) there are many people who are looking for freedom and salvation in sects, because all sects propagandise freedom, promise peace and rest, even though they lead sraightly to raging. Often ex-sectarians after the conversion need help and rescue, in many extra hard cases they need much time and strength to get rescued. But this is also an extremity.

There are people who think that they are free, but in reality they live in captivity of disappointment, dissatisfaction, feeling of guilt, rejection and undesirability. At the same time they propagate wonderful freedom. A person can always ‘get free' from the Church and God, but he will find not true freedom rather only its fake illusion.

In order not to find ourselves in situation of the younger son and not to live in impurity, we have to keep to father's law which sometimes seams obscure to us and remain in the Church, sacrificing our personal will.

When people leave the Church, they fall a prey of impurity; fornication becomes their life, lascivious thoughts occupy their mind, their hearts are in slavery of fornicated desires. Some people are so addicted to it, that even having a strong desire they can not quit it themselves.

The only way out is to return to father's home with hope for help: "at my father's home servants live better than I do now." (see Luke 15:17)

We can adapt what the younger son said in the parable to our case: "In the Church, those who go to Masses, not even understanding it, live better than I, who imagined myself to be the most intelligent in the world."

During 3-day seminar, which I held at one parish, one middle-aged woman came out to give witness. She was a doctor. This is what she said: "There are five of us in our family. Four of us graduated from university. Our old granny lives with us, and all the time she prays the Rosary. We all thought that she got herself busy with stupidity... How can one constantly tell the beads of the rosary, how can she renounce her free thought, how can she reject the life which other people live and all day tell the beads of the rosary?!" And that woman said: "Now I can tell in front all of you: she was the only wise person in our family! And now I acknowledge how unwise and stupid I was. I imagined myself as if I had been free, in reality that was she who had been free. I thought how wise and intelligent I had been, and now I see how wise and clever she had been."

So, it's not always the way it appears. The younger son realized his mistake and decided to go back to his father, and the father had seen him when he was still a long way off. Let's remind ourselves that this father is the Heavenly Father who loves us so much. He loves us so much that He had given His only Son for us.

Let's remind ourselves the words of Jesus who said that no-one can come to Him until the Heavenly Father brings him. No one of us came to Jesus until his Father took him to put before Him. Is it possible that someone of us could find Jesus if Father wouldn't want it?

When Jesus healed, He always said: «I do only what my Heavenly Father tells me to do.» In the Gospel and in all Holy Scriptures we are told about the Father Who loves every person infinitely. This is the truth.

For example, only in Gospel of John, Jesus says the name of the father for 103 times. How many times He says: «Your Father, my Father, Father Who loves you»?

How many times He says: «Ask the Father whatever you need; ask the Father; the Father loves you». Read the Gospel of John and you will get convinced in it.

Who of us can say: «Father, I love You and I put all my trust in You»? Not everyone. Why? Because Father demands obedience, He demands fulfilment of Church's and God's commandments which we often do not like.

It's very hard to love someone who requires living according to the rules that he had established. But it's mistakenly to consider that He had given us commandments only to set limit for us. On the contrary, we were given commandments to get freed from slavery of sin, to protect us for something bigger and more precious. For what exactly, we'll talk a bit later.

So, the son turns back to his father.

The parable says that having seen his son from afar, the father ran to him - he wasn't waiting for his son to rail at and bring to his senses. The son had been afraid to go back home, that's why he decided to come to his father with words: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

People who (at some time) have stepped from God and the Church have fear before the Father Whom they don't know, Whom they are afraid of, waiting for punishment and rejection.

This parable reviels us the true image of Father-God - loving and ever forgiving.

What does the prodigal son get instead of just, to his opinion, punishment? What does the parable say?

«But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.» (see Luke 15:20-24).

After such a welcome will the son even try to leave the home ones again in order to search for fake freedom elsewhere? Sometimes it's very useful and even necessary to fall very low in order to understand, rise and get freed.

Let's take a look at the reaction of the older son when he had turned back from the field. When he got to know the reason for the party at home, he came to his father: "Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!" (Luke 15:29-30).

Very often we ‘welcome' our brothers and sisters in the same way. We are sorry and envious to realize that many things we, who always lived with God, haven't experienced, haven't try, and in the result, from God's point of view, we are at the same level with our «younger» brothers.

In the same way as it is in the parable where workers who worked for the whole day, received the same payment as those who worked only for an hour. "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found." (Luke 15:31-32), answers the father. How to understand these words correctly? Was he hinting that the older son might any moment take whatever he wished and make a party for himself?

No! He was talking about the pleasure which was filling his heart when children were obedient to him. Because only in that case they were protected and blessed. Its not hard at all to realize father's pleasure from his son's return, but we still have to learn how to feel happy from being with God, to feel happy from living in faith according to God's commandments.

I often ask: «What day will we die?» Someone may die today since there is a great possibility for this. No matter the age, no matter the state of health. Then the Lord will ask: «Do you want to go to heaven?» No doubt, the answer will be «yes». But what would you answer for a simple question: «Why do you want to go there?»

I have heard many wise and clever answers, but they never (or rarely) have been exact. This is shocking. Why do you want to go to heaven?

One woman answered: «Because I don't want to go to hell with those ugly and sinful people!»

Believe me, plenty of Catholics think in the same way. They simply want to go to heaven because they don't want to go to hell. In this way they just consider heaven to be simply less evil than hell. How often do we pray: «God, I want to go to heaven.»? This is the purpose of our life.

Sons from the parable did not understand the purpose of their lives, that's why it was so hard for them to stand their father's demand and strictness. In order to find the purpose of life and feel the desire to follow it, you need to be under «spirit» of God's commandments.

We were created on purpose to get to know God, to love Him and, when we get to heaven, unite with Him forever. Do we always meditate on this? Do we strive for this and realize this?

Won't God, Who most of all values free will of every person, look into your heart and express His surprise, saying: «Listen, you never really wanted to go to heaven. Your heart never cried for it, your lips never asked for this, your soul never longed for heaven. Why should I call you here?» How will you deny this?

Imagine yourself in place of Jesus. A person for whom you have suffered an awful death on the cross, suffered incomprehensible pain and humiliation, comes to you. You personally paid for every sin of this person. Instead of thanks, you are simply informed that that person no longer wants to be with you and, actually, never wanted it. What would you feel?

We always have to remember that Jesus paid for our every forgiven sin. Every time we sin, He is punished, every time He suffers the same pain as two thousand years ago, dying on the cross, alone, rejected and humiliated, under the burning sun, thirsty and bleeding.

One more thing I sometimes ask people: «Whom will you meet in heaven?». When people start answering this question, it sounds more shocking. You may make a concluission about life of these people at once.

Most of people think they will find there Mary and Jesus, someone - angels and saintsfew hope to find there someone from their family. Isn't this rather small company for heaven? Rarely someone would say: «I want to meet there the loving Father Who had been my protection for the whole life, Who cared for me, to Whom my soul longed for all my life.».

Unfortunately, we rarely think over this answer and understand it. Won't we meet in heaven millions of people who during thousands years kept love and faith and got to heaven? What will we be doing in heaven? Will we have free will there? Obviously, yes.

Our nature will change, having lost its disposition to sin, nothing will be pushing us to sin. We won't even think of slandering, condemning, hating, blaming someone... We will live in happiness. Especially happy will be women - there will be a possibility to communicate unlimitedly. We will be allowed to do everything in heaven, because we won't even think of doing something forbidden. The thought to do something wrong is impossible in heaven.

The most important is, of course, closeness to the Father in Whose arms we'll be forever.

Those who have children probably know how important and pleasant it is for a little child to feel kindness in parents' arms, how a child longs to be loved and hugged during all day.

We'll get to heaven just as little children. In the Holy Scriptures we read that in heaven we will be worshipping and gloryfing our Eternal Father - for many people it seams quite boring. Is it boring for a little child when his mother or father holds him in her/his arms? No way. Why should we get bored in heaven?

Heaven is real. Heaven is what we are expecting. You can «buy», or better to say «deserve» heaven only when you frequently renounce your own desires and you personal will. You may deserve heaven only when you will live in the Church, following God's commandments. This is not easy, that's why many people choose other way - personal beliefs, sects, disbelief. Heaven and hell are two opposites; love and hate. Forever! It is impossible to change something later.

That's why we have been given commandments which show us direction so that we might make our own choice during life on earth. If we - people - could totally comprehend and understand God, we wouldn't need any commandments.

Unfortunately, we, having been born with consequences of the original sin, can not completely understand God and His law according to us; we can not be called complete people. Bible says that we live in lack of knowledge, that's why we have to simply cherish belief in God's commandments, though it's not easy to accomplish them.

We often look for easier, better, more even way, but we have to be conscious where it leads. We have to make a choice. Do we want to live in father's home, or take the heritage and act according to our personal will, considering ourselves to be wiser than God? We have to remember: the moment we put ourselves higher than God's commandments, we make a horrible sin of pride. And then we are one step from the hell.

I had no intention to frighten or scare you. I just wanted to tell you the truth in which I sincerely believe.

We have to stand still. God's way isn't easy. Jesus said that we won't be understood, people will make fun of us, they will even kill us. It will be painful for us that secular amusements are inaccessible for us. But let's start to think over the reward which is awaiting for us.

Isn't eternal life in happines worth to sacrifice couple of decades of our earthy trial.

The older son stayed in father's home forever, but he never got to know father's love. And it's hard for us to imagine and understand this here on earth. Endurance - this is what will lead us to complete knowledge.

© Milites Christi Imperatoris