From beginning to end the lenten and paschal services of this special season in the Church’s life call us to return to God our Father. The theme of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) runs through the entire season. The simple fact is that we have ruined our lives and our world. We have polluted the air, the water and the earth beneath our feet. The birds and the fish, the plants and the animals, grieve because of human evil. We have abandoned communion with God and have gone off on our own, following our own ideas, enacting our own plans. And the result? Through our reckless wasting of the gifts given us by God, we have stripped ourselves of our original and fundamental dignity, glory, wisdom, beauty and strength: we have lost our legacy as God’s children. And the whole cosmos suffers with us in our affliction. People feel unhappy and they don’t know why. They feel that something is wrong, but they can’t put their finger on what. They feel uneasy, confused, frustrated, alienated and estranged – and they can’t explain it. They have everything and yet they want more; and when they get it, they are still empty and dissatisfied. They want fulfillment and it never seems to come. Everything is fine and yet everything is wrong. Here in America, this is almost a national disease. It is covered over by frantic activity and endless running around; it is buried in activities and events; it is drowned out by television programs and football games. But when the movement stops and the dial is turned off and everything is quiet…..then the dread sets in, the meaninglessness of it all, the boredom and the fear. Why is this so? Because, as the Church tells us, we are really not at home. We are in exile. We are alienated and estranged from our true country. We are not with God our Father in the land of the living. We are spiritually sick and some of us are already dead. “Our hearts are made for God,” St. Augustine said more than 1500 years ago, “and we will be forever restless until we rest in him.” Our lives are made for God and we will be unsatisfied, unfulfilled and frustrated until we find our home with Him. Nothing in this fallen world can, of itself, bring us the peace that we seek. God alone can do that because He alone is our home. And we are His. The lenten and paschal season is given to us by the Church as the time for the our conscious return to our true home in God, the God who has – in His amazing love for us – forgiven us and embraced us in the crucifixion of Christ Jesus our Lord and granted us the possibility of eternal life in His rising from the dead.
(adapted from Father Thomas Hopko’s book, The Lenten Spring)