Tag Archive for: Prodigal Son

Lenten Journey Day 19 – Ego

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 19: Baked Sweet Potato Wedges

Lenten Journey Day 19 – Ego 

We are at the third week of Lent. It has been a good journey. We have had time to look inward, to contemplate, meditate and pray. We have restricted our diets as well as restricted idle conversation. We are feeling good. The changes we are making are starting to impact others, our families our surroundings, our work environment, our communities and therefore, our world.

Now we start understanding that real changes come from within. Perhaps it is the only thing we can alter in this world, because it is the only thing in which we have complete control. God places that control in our hands. He gives us this life and He allows us to live it the way we wish.

We conclude this week by looking at one more dimension in the story of the Prodigal Son, namely the ego dimension. You see, all of our difficulties in life stem from the ego. It is for this reason that all major religions, true religions, ask you to lose the ego as part of their spiritual discipline. For the Christian we are reminded of Jesus’ words, “ He who loves his life will lose it and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it for eternal life.”

Take a look at great people who have impacted society and life and are recorded in history in a very positive manner. You’ll find something very similar among all of their biographies. They have been willing to sacrifice themselves. They have given of themselves. Now, do not mistake this for low self esteem or low self worth. People who impact life in a positive manner have a very positive image of themselves, but they are also willing to sacrifice because that positive self image is not a false one nor is it built on false pride.

False pride is very easy to acquire. Especially going through some of the Lenten rituals, as we are doing now, it is very easy to confidently boast, “Look at me, I am doing something that others can’t do.” In that statement we forget the reason for the Lenten season. In other words, the means become the focus of our actions rather than the end or goal of our efforts. The goal of Lent is to better ourselves and therefore better our relationships and our world. In the same way, we can think of our dietary restrictions during Lent. There is a reason for us to abstain from animal products. It is not only for the sake of lowering our cholesterol or our weight, but it is to keep things on an even playing field, understanding what is essential in our lives.

Think of the great people who have impacted the world. Now focus on the great people in your own life. They may be a parent or a teacher, a mentor. You will find again that these have been the ones who have been willing to put themselves second to better the lives of others, be they their children, their husbands, their wives, their country, their society or their community. Whatever the case, in the sacrifice that they made ego was contained. Ego was put on hold so that others were allowed to prosper.

To raise children, to support a husband or a wife, to deal with aging parents, to offer love and affection to people around, requires sacrifice. Many times in church life we need volunteers to get jobs done. Sometimes we think, would it not be easier if we paid people to work in these positions? Certainly it would be easier, but the real power of getting things done in the church is by volunteers, because in volunteerism the ego has to be suppressed.

When you get down on your knees and wipe the floors of a church you are acknowledging that there is something greater than yourself there that needs to be served. When you volunteer to help in community organizations, in organization that have goals that are striving for peace or world justice, you are placing a greater-than-sign (>) between the purpose and yourself. In volunteering, the ego gets left behind. You are not as important as the we.

In the story of the Prodigal Son the younger brother is driven by ego. He wants his inheritance, not for some community project, not to better the lives of other people but to enjoy himself. Quickly we see that when the money runs out and so does the enjoyment. His friends back off. There is no intrinsic value to the things he acquired. He was driven by ego and he lost the value of life.

Think about all of the difficulties you have in your life, can you trace them back to ego? Think about the very basic seven sins that we identify, namely pride, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, laziness and covetousness,. Each one of these sins has a foundation made up of an ego that needs to be fed. When we get rid of ego, or at least trim it down, we start seeing that our motives become more pure, our actions are more productive. We begin to understand that we give because it is right to give, not because we are expecting something back in return. We care for people because it is right to care for them, not because we are obliged to do so. If we love people, we are doing so because it is right to love, not because we are living out someone else’s ideals. When the ego is abandoned, we find a new purity of purpose and of self. Our motives and intentions move toward the noble and perhaps even the sacred. We find the power to become the people we want to become and need to become. It is for this reason that our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us, “Blessed are the pure at heart for they shall see God.”

Let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali in concluding today’s meditation:
Son of God, true God who descended from the bosom of the Father and took flesh of the Holy virgin Mary for our salvation, who was crucified and buried and rose from the dead and ascended to the Father. I have sinned against heaven and before you. Remember me like the robber when I (yes?) come in your kingdom. Have mercy on your creatures and upon me a great sinner. (I Confess with Faith 4/24)

Lenten Journey Day 18 – Lost and Found

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 18: Peach Cobbler

Lenten Journey Day 18 – Lost and Found 

As I mentioned earlier if nothing else reached us from the time of Christ save for the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it would be enough to teach us about the Love of God and the meaning of reconciliation. It is a story which demonstrates our responsibility to one another in terms of love, compassion and forgiveness. There are so many dimensions to this story that it really makes it a perfect tool to be used during the Lenten season.

Yesterday we meditated about the travel we take, from various points in our life to an end. Today, we will look at the detours that come our way in our travel through life. When we lose focus of the target, we wander and can be distracted to the point that we lose our way. We become lost. Tragically, sometimes our lost state is so severe that we neither return to the road nor the destination.

Getting lost is not intentional. No one begins a journey with the hope of getting lost. The truth is, in the journey of life we come across many difficulties, many obstacles, that prevent us from reaching the fullness that we want in life. Those obstacles stand in front of us like roadblocks as we travel toward our dreams. When the road is blocked, we immediately look for ways to circumvent, to go around the obstacles and in so doing, we swerve off course. We get lost. We discussed this earlier as being one of the foundations of being in a “sinful nature.” That is, we missed the mark. We’re shooting for that perfection but we miss it. We’re off the bull’s-eye.

Think about your life. Think about the difficulties, the challenges that you have experienced. You started off your journey with good intentions. Whether it was a career path or career move, a business, education, financial, health goals, or a relationship – a husband, wife, children, parents, friends – whatever the case may be, your motives and purpose were good, perhaps even noble.

Take for instance your financial goals. You started out with good intention: those funds were to pay for something. An education? A better way of living. A trip? Retirement? But along the way you started to compromise. You lost sight of where you were going. While deep down, in the back of your mind, you knew where the destination was, but the day-to-day activities of your life betray you to compromise. You got caught up in the mundane chores and responsibilities that took you father and father away from your goals. You looked at the map and you realized, you were lost!

Being lost hurts. Part of the hurt is attributed to frustration, while a bigger part is because of the guilt. You know that you started with every intention of finishing in a proper manner. You know that the road was a good one, but things got messed up along with way.

Fortunately, we have a way to turn back. We do not have to continue along that same path. And that is the strength of the Lenten Journey. By self-evaluation and introspection we identify our problems and through prayer and meditation we find the means to re-orient and to redirect our self along the path, ultimately to find direction in our life.

In the Gospel narrative, as a prelude to Jesus’ telling of the Prodigal Son parable, there is a discussion about being lost and found (Luke 15). We read that the tax collectors and sinners were gathered around Jesus to hear Him. Now this is interesting and important to note here because Jesus, being the holy man that he was, was in violation of protocol. It was not proper for Him to be sitting with tax collectors who were not only disliked for obvious reasons, but were hated because they were looked upon as traitors, collecting money for the enemy state. And of course, he was with the sinners, who were the outcasts because they did not live up to the standards society had imposed upon them. The so called people of faith, looked down their noses at the sinners.

“The Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he does find it, he rejoices, puts it on his shoulders and comes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me! I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who do not need to repent.” 

Just as he did in the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus makes it very clear that He is interested in the people who have lost their way. And please note, that includes every one of us.

There is a beautiful expression that says, “Stop and smell the roses.” I love that expression because it reminds us that yes, we are lost. How often do we have the time or take the time to really stop and smell the roses? To really look at the sunset in awe? To look into our children’s eyes and see the hope of tomorrow? To really dream with them and believe in tomorrow? To know that peace is possible? To dream of a better tomorrow? Those dreams, those smiles, are usually forgotten by us because we are in the fast gear, never having enough time to slow down and look, hear, smell, taste and feel life.

Lent is this perfect time to look at your path, where you are going, where you are headed. Are you lost? Do you need a road map? Do you need to get back to the path? Is it time to make a turn or perhaps a complete a U-turn? These are questions that you and you alone need to answer. You have your map open. You have your navigator on and you are on this Lenten Journey.

We conclude with the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali. Today let us go to the beginning of that prayer, to the first hour to remind us where everything begins:
I confess with faith and adore you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, uncreated and immortal essence, creator of angels, of humans and all that exists. Have mercy upon your creatures and upon me, a great sinner. Amen (I Confess with Faith, 1/24)

Lenten Journey Day 16 – The Older Brother

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 16: Cherry Walnut Chews

Lenten Journey Day 16 – The Older Brother

For the past two days we looked at two different characters from the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Today we will continue looking at the parable and this time focus on the actions of the older brother.

Of the three characters in the prodigal son, perhaps it is the older brother with whom we can best identify. Perhaps it is because, well, basically he is a good guy. He is a friendly guy. He is the one who did the right things and stayed faithful. He stayed home and did not squander the money that his father had given him. He was loyal. He was obedient. But mostly we see in him the man, who like all of us, recognizes the unfairness of life. There was an injustice that was being played out because when the younger brother came home, there was celebration. It was almost as if he was being rewarded for his breach of discipline.

The older brother also asked some questions that could have arisen out of simple jealousy. Why not me? Why is it that good things happen to bad people? Why are the actions of the bad person being rewarded while my goodness goes unnoticed? I have been loyal. I have been the model son any father would be proud of. Now this son of yours comes home, after squandering and abusing what you have given him. How can he being worth the fatted calf? A celebration? The ring of authority on his hand? Simply: Why not me? Perhaps it is this expression that rings the bell of familiarity in all of us.

There are many example of unfairness in our lives. Often we see people who seemingly do not deserve to be rewarded, yet they are honored with privileges and rewards. Why not me? is only a natural question to follow this inequity. Not only is it natural, it is logical if we believe good should be rewarded, well, I’ve done it right. I’m a good guy. Sure, I have faults but basically, I’m a good person. Why isn’t my goodness being rewarded?

The father in the story gives a very simple answer. His is an answer that comes from the vantage point of parenthood. “ Son,” says the father to his oldest, “I have always had you. Whatever I have is already yours. But this, my son, was lost and now he’s found; was dead and now he’s alive.” In so saying, the father is asking his son to see the bigger pictures. It’s not just about this moment, but there is a bigger “project” so to speak. Ultimately, God’s aim is to have us all His children reconciled with all of His creation. It’s about a state of love and harmony so that everyone may share that Kingdom.

Now let’s push this little further and challenge ourselves, because, after all, there is true injustice in the world. But as this Lenten Journey unfolds we’re understanding that the real problem is with our perception of the goal, of the prize. We’re looking at those excesses and material goods as the prize and lose sight of the true treasure that is already a part of our life. Proof? Take a deep breath. Can you feel it entering your lungs? That’s a gift from God on which you cannot place a price tag. Do you love someone? Someone you can look to – a child, a parent, a husband, a wife, a boyfriend, a girlfriend? That is a gift. Do you have the ability to smile? Do you have the ability to look out at the flowers, at the trees, at the mountains, at the sea and stand in awe for a second and realize that there is something far greater than material goods we consume ourselves with. That is a gift. And that is the gift that has been given to you by God. He says, don’t abuse it. Don’t be like the prodigal. Don’t squander what I have given you. And now, don’t look for more. Because anything more are the excesses that you have to fight off anyway. Don’t look for those extras because you’ve already been given the gift of life. What greater gift is there? You have the gift of love in your heart, along with the ability to take that love and share it with others.

Today’s challenge in the Lenten Journey is to dismiss any jealousies that may be consuming us and preventing us from taking another step forward. As the father in the parable challenged the older son, we receive a challenge from the Parable itself, to take a walk in the shoes of the father. We’ll note that in his unconditional love for both his sons there is no room for jealousy. The Love of God trumps everything, no matter how strong those feelings of jealousy or envy may be.

Remember, God has placed love in our heart. It’s up to us to use it, not abuse it. It’s up to use to share it with the ones we love, with our family, our community and with this world.

We conclude with the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali,
All Merciful Lord, have mercy on all your faithful. On those who are mine and on those who are strangers. On those whom I know and on those whom I know not, on the living and on the dead. Forgive all my enemies and those who hate me the trespasses they have committed against me. Turn them from the malice they bear toward me that they may be worthy of your mercy. Have mercy upon all your creatures, and upon me, a great sinner. (I confess with Faith, 23/24)

Lenten Journey Day 14 – The Prodigal Son

Day 14: The Prodigal Son

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 14: Hot and Sour Cabbage

Lenten Journey Day 14 – The Prodigal Son

Every Sunday during the Lenten Season has a unique name. Today is known as the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Accordingly, the lesson of the day comes from the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 15, where Jesus teaches using a parable, commonly known as the story of the Prodigal Son.
Perhaps if nothing else reached us from the time of Jesus except for this one parable, it would be enough to explain our relationship with God. It is a story of reconciliation, and expresses the unconditional love that God has for us and therefore, requires of us.
The story of the Prodigal Son unfolds like this: A man has two sons. The younger son asks for and receives his inheritance. He takes his share of his father’s estate and squanders it on reckless living. While he has funds, he is popular with many friends. But when his money ran out, so did his friends. No money, no parties, no extravagant lifestyle, no friends, he goes out to look for work. But it is of no use. He can’t make enough to survive.
One night, when he is really down, he sees some pigs feeding and he actually considers eating the pigs’ food because he is so hungry. It is at that point that he comes to his senses. He remembers his father’s home and remembers that that his father’s servants live better than he. That night, he makes a decision to go back home –to his father – to beg for forgiveness. He even strategizes that he will ask to be taken-in as one of his father’s  servants.  
Now, while the son is returning home his father sees him on this road. His father comes running toward him, grabs him, hugs him and kisses him. He doesn’t even give his son a chance to talk nor to explain his deeds while away from home. The father then orders his servants to come around and bring him the best clothes and put the ring of authority on his hand. Then he orders a celebration! The fatted calf is slaughtered for this party.
The story of the Prodigal Son doesn’t end here. Remember he had an older brother. Now this older brother was working in the field and heard the sound of merriment and dancing. He didn’t understand and protested to his father. He said, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” He just could not understand the unfairness of life. He (the older brother) had done everything right and the younger brother had wasted his inheritance. “Where is the justice?” he demanded. Why is the bad guy getting rewarded while the good guy continues to labor and struggle?
The father, with compassion and understanding, explains to the older brother, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
So ends the story of the Prodigal Son, but here begins a tremendous opportunity to reflect on the many dimensions of this short parable.
In the next few days of the Lenten Journey we will look at the father and older son characters separately. For today’s discussion we will focus on the younger son. Let’s begin with the young man’s desire to want a better life and to enjoy it. That is not a foreign or unusual feeling. In fact, we all have entertained thoughts of better life. Why not? Why shouldn’t we have the better things in life? For in fact, in this boy’s case, he had the means, his father had the resources, so why not take advantage of the situation and go for it all? What then is the “sin” of the younger son? He is driven by his passions and the energy that comes with youth, and perhaps a little bit of impatience. He seizes the opportunity and takes what he can! Where’s the sin?
Taking what is given to you is not a sin. That is your gift. It belongs to you. The sin is squandering the gift! The sin is taking your gift and abusing it.
One of the challenges that comes to us on this 14th Day of the Lenten Journey is to list and inventory the gifts that have been given to you. Are you using that gift? Or are you abusing it? Are you respecting that gift or are you squandering it?
God has given each of us talents. He has given us life itself. Indeed the breath we breathe is a gift, as is the smile on our face, our ability to hug and our passion to reach out. Unfortunately, much like the Prodigal Son, we squander what is given us in a reckless and sometimes abusive manner. We consume our lives with the minutia and we therefore abandon quality. God has given us a smile that would light up a room and we cover it up, we are ashamed to show that smile. He has given us the ability to talk and instead we keep our mouths closed, or if we do open it we fill it with idle conversation and gossip. He has  given us the ability to hold, lift up and to help others instead we tie our hands down and refuse to help those in need. He has given us feet to walk in the paths of righteousness and instead we take our bodies to dismal hangouts.
We are each a prodigal son. We have taken the gifts of God and instead of using and enjoying them, we have squandered, abused and wasted the goodness in a prodigal life. We have missed the mark and by missing it, we fall short of realizing and maximizing our potential.
As we are inventorying our talents and gifts from God, let us also ask ourselves how we are using those gifts. Are we squandering the precious elements of life? Or are we using those talents for the betterment of all?
Tomorrow, we will continue with the parable of the Prodigal Son by observing the character of the father. For now let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali
Heavenly Father, true God, who sent Your beloved Son to seek the wandering sheep. I have sinned against heaven and before you. Receive me like Prodigal Son and clothe me with the garment of innocence, of which I was deprived by with sin. Have mercy upon your creatures and upon me a great sinner. Amen (3/24)



Next Step #665: Overshadowed by the Prodigal Son, here’s what to look for as the clouds clear. Reclaim prep: Youth as alternatives to future revelations of the self. “Acts of God” and acts of humans: choice and no choice in the decision process.
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Luke chapter 15 (with the Prodigal Son Parable)
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Prodigal Son, Rolling Stones
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for http://InHisShoes.org
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Refocus, Return, Reclaim


Next Step #457: The Weekend of the Prodigal Son brings a story of redemption, a story of recovery and of course, reclaim. On the eve of an unprecedented Christian Conference, RECLAIM, Fr. Vazken explores the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) in its many dimensions. The journey of the Prodigal Son back home comes alive in this special edition.
Home by Haig Yazadjian
Prodigal Son Parable
New English Bible
RECLAIM: www.Embracing-Faith.com
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Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
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From Pawn to King in a Week

Next Step #301 – March 13, 2014

Exploring the definitions of God explored and then delivered via an unusual character, namely the squirrelly and squandering boy known as the Prodigal. This episode ties in with the healing process of within and without. It opens new ideas for Armodoxy, along with some cosmic math – tying up the mystery of the numbers and the episode.
Song: Der Voghormia – chant of forgiveness
Lenten Journey – Healing
Bland Lenten Page: http://www.armenianorthodoxy.org/lent/
Prodigal Son
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
Now on Stitcher Radio! 

Heart Prints

Next Step #90 – February 25, 2010

Has anyone ever tried Christianity? Karl Marx’s challenge is applied to Christianity. Can the Prodigal answer that challenge? Answers to the questions concerning the Vazkenian Seminary – Find out where and who these people are. Fr. Vazken opens a candid view of the priest during the Lenten season – what are some of his challenges? And a surprise message from the 1200th Century – in St. Nersess Shnorahali’s Ninth Hour of the Havadov Khosdovanim. Finally – the evolution toward the “Next” step. An invitation to join in the Famine Kickoff (epostle.net/broadcast.html)
Music: Datevig “Antzrev Yegav”
Ani’s Bubbles: “Heart Prints”
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net

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