February 12, 2023

An Instructive Lesson for Young Men from the Parable of the Prodigal Son (St. John Maximovitch)

 By St. John Maximovitch

(Delivered in Shanghai in 1946)

“And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me’” (Luke 15:12-14).

The Parable of the Prodigal Son contains the most instructive lesson for a young man.

In fact, in the prodigal son we see the full character of a volatile youth: frivolity, thoughtlessness, a passion for independence - in a word, everything that usually distinguishes most young men. The youngest son grew up in his parents' house. Having reached his youthful years, he already thought that his parents' house was too small for him. It seemed to him unpleasant to live under the guidance of his father and the supervision of his mother, he wanted to imitate his friends, indulging in the noisy pleasures of the world. “I,” he argued, “am the heir to a rich estate. Wouldn't it be better if I got my part now? I can dispose of wealth differently than how my father disposes." And the frivolous young man was carried away by the deceptive brilliance of the pleasures of the world and decided to overthrow the yoke of obedience, thus he decided to leave his parents' house.

Is it not similar motives that force many even now to leave, if not the house of their earthly parents, then the house of the Heavenly Father, that is, to leave the obedience of the holy Church?

The yoke of Christ for immature minds seems difficult, and His commandments heavy. They think that there is no particular need to observe what God and His holy Church commands us to do. One can serve, it seems to them, God and not refuse to serve the world. “We,” they say, “are already strong enough to resist the fatal temptations and trials. We ourselves can hold fast to the truth and sound doctrine. Let us perfect our minds with information from many sides! Let us ourselves strengthen our will in the midst of temptations and trials! And let our senses be convinced by the very experience of the vileness of vice! - Are such desires better than the thoughtless request that the youngest son uttered to his father: “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me"?

And so, the frivolous young man ceases to heed the commandments and suggestions of the holy Church. He ceases to study the word of God and the teachings of the holy fathers, but inclines his ear to the wisdom of false teachers and kills in these studies the best hours of his life. He begins less often to visit the temples of God, or stands in them inattentively, absent-mindedly. He does not find an opportunity to diligently engage in piety and in asceticism and in virtue, because most of the time is consumed in attending spectacles, public amusements, etc. In a word, every day more and more he surrenders to the world and, finally, departs "to a country far away."

What does such a distance from the Holy Church lead to? In addition, what led the prodigal son to be removed from his parent's house. Frivolous young men very soon use up the wonderful powers and abilities of soul and body and destroy everything that was good for the time of eternity. Meanwhile, “there arose a severe famine in that land”; emptiness and discontent appear, the necessary consequences of noisy pleasures; there is a thirst for pleasure, which is even stronger from the satisfaction of vicious passions and, finally, becomes insatiable. And how often does it happen that an unfortunate peace-lover, in order to satisfy his passions, resorts to base and shameful activities that do not bring him to himself like a prodigal son, and do not return him to the path of salvation, but complete his destruction, both temporary and eternal!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

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