The Arena
The Arena

Episode 556 · 9 months ago

The Spirit of Judgment and Grace | Sunday of the Prodigal Son 2022


The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present theological foundations God, man and the world in Genesis one through three a ten lecture series. The opening chapters of the Holy Bible provide the fundamental elements of the Christian World View. There we learn about the one true God, the human being fashioned in God's image and God's meaning infused creation. These texts, which have always formed a central element in the Church's catechetical ministry, present the most important of Christian convictions. These chapters are particularly relevant today, as secularism has suppressed these essential truths from the Western mind and priests can no longer assume that these basic theological affirmations are believed by those coming to the church or raised in the church. These lectures are presented as an aid in the formation of catechumens and as an effort to set forth the transcendent beauty of the glory of God, of the human being and of God's magnificent world. For these and other available titles, visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trennam, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. A blessed Lord's Day to all of you, brothers and sisters. Thank you. I've entitled my homily this morning the spirit of judgment and of grace. The spirit of judgment and of grace. I'm preaching on the magnificent all was moving parable that you just heard. You know, this is the fourth week in a row that the Gospel text has revealed to us the grotesqueness of the spirit of judgment when it resides in the hearts of sinners. It began with the Sunday of Zach Caius, and you'll remember when Jesus chose to go into Zach Caius's house, there was all sorts of murmuring. He's going into the house of a man who was a sinner. His repentance, Achaius, is repentance and our saviors grace were so magnificent, but the background was this awful spirit of judgment. The same was with the Canaanite woman. Jesus had to deal with his disciples opinion that she wasn't worthy of time because she wasn't of the House of Israel. In fact, she was a pagan dog. And then last week you heard the incredible Publican and Pharisee, and that poor pharisee sat there in God's house completely gripped with selfrighteousness and judgment and said I think the Oh God, that I am not like other men, especially him. Can you imagine, in prayer, gripped by the spirit of the devil? Today, in this marvelous parable of the Prodigal son, were confronted with the spirit of judgment in the attitude of the elder brother. He's not just a sidelight in this parable, he's at the heart of this parable. We call it off of the parable of the Prodigal Son. It could just as easily be called the parable of the selfrighteous brother and probably more magnificently, called the parable of the lavish father, of...

...the Compassionate, grace giving father. The elder son sadly continue to use this horrible theme of the spirit of Judgment. The other son was, from the outside it look like the really wonderful person and very devout. He never left his father's side, according to his own testimony, always kept his father's command. What his father asked he did. He certainly didn't insult his father like his younger brother and wish him dead so that he could get his inheritance money and go party. Now, from the outside it look like he was just perfect and he was deeply offended because he judged himself to be a good man, a devout son, a lawkeeper. But we'd learned very quickly from this offense that he didn't consider it a joy to be near his father. He wasn't next to his father because he loved his father. If you love someone to be next to them as a party every day. You don't have to wait for some special day, if you love them and you feel honored to be in their presence. And we find out by his offense that he was there on the outside, but on the inside he was farther away from his father than his own rebellious brother. The other son, is an example of those complainers that Jesus isn't mentions. In that parable he taught about the man who had a feel that vineyard and he hired workers to work in the vineyard and he agreed with them for a Denarius a day and he hired the workers in the first hour and then he hired some more of the third hour because he found them just kind of being lazy in the market place. And he hired some more in the sixth hour, in the ninth hour, then he hired even some people in the eleventh hour who hardly had to do any work at all. And when it came time to pay them, he paid the people who hardly did any work at all the same amount that he had agreed on with the people who had worked all day long. And the people who had worked all day long were offended. Why? For no reason that makes any sense at all, except their self righteous disdain for people. Except for this, their spirit of judgment for the lazy don't deserve to have a full day's wage. They didn't get ripped off. They thought it was a good deal when they made it, until the grace of God was too much for them. Then they lost it. And in the parable Jesus has the owner of the vineyard say to them? Did I do something contrary to our agreement that used to think was so great, or is your eye evil? Am I not free to do with what is my own whatever I want? Wow, how dangerous. How dangerous is the spirit of selfrighteousness? How easy it is, brothers and sisters, to fall away from the grace that we started with and to change our minds about what really connects us to God and to go from being raptured in his graciousness and his forgiveness to becoming self satisfied and thinking somehow that the bridge between us is no longer Christ and his unspeakable mercy, but is the fact that we've been pretty good for so many years.

We've been going to church, we've been worshiping God. No, no, not then, not ever, from beginning to end and then for all eternity, the bridge between us and God will be his love, His grace, his son. We are saved by grace, not by works. Paul says, by grace. You have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not on the basis of works, that no man should boast like the elder son today boast of Meing of his fidelity. He had forgotten. You know recently, recently, I shared the story of St James The ascetic. I think I might have mentioned it in one of my homilies to you recently and I even did a little video on it and I pointed out, reminded you of how Saint James He's just there in the shrine on the left side. Can't see it from where I'm standing, but Saint James is such a marvelous testimony of how it's possible to start well, to attain great heights, to lose your humility, to be abandoned by the grace of God and to become what you never thought you could be. James was a great ascetic who lived and performed miracles and guided people to the way of salvation for years. But he got proud and he fell into sin with a woman, and so offended was he at what he himself had done and so ashamed before men but not before God, he killed the woman and he buried her. Then he was overcome, overcome with despair and repentance visited him and he lived in a tomb, refusing even to let the sun see him because he knew what he had become. And ten years he lived like a nocturnal rodent, not even allowing himself to be seen by people. And God visited him and forgave him and cleansed him. And before he died, the text of his life said that a great famine had struck the neighboring area where he was outside of where his tomb was and by his prayers he ended the famine. It's put in there to show that God, to as a testimony to what God does. God even returned his miracle working power. By his humble repentance, he re established the true connection between himself and God. The reason I bring him up is because after I shared that testimony, the week after I got several letters of a fence. I received several emails of people who wrote me and said, father, that's a scandalous story. I agreed with them. Absolutely scandalous, scandal to all the selfrighteous people in the world. They thought it was scandalous because it presented God as weak and somehow condoning evil and going too far. It hurt me, actually. I felt deeply sorry for those who wrote me. I asked them this question. How much does someone have to sin before it's really bad? Really how...

...much do you have to sin, and how much can God forgive before it scandalous? No doubt no one who wrote me actually answered it. I would bet, though, that if we fall into that kind of nonsense, we're going to assume that God can forgive just past what we did and not any farther. I don't think there's anything weak about that picture of God, and it's certainly the testimony of St James. Is Certainly not the church saying, Oh, don't know, don't don't worry what you've done, because it all is going to be okay. That's not even a thousand years. Can you interpret that, that text like that? But yes, is the is the grace of God totally scandalous to those who don't really think that they are the chief of sinners? Yes, yes, I think in occasions when we're tempted by that spirit we should remember what Paul says. He says, who are you, Oh man, to talk back to God? Don't let yourself have thoughts like that. Ever, this theme of the spirit of judgment that exists in these four Sundays comes to a conclusion next week. It comes to a conclusion in the Sunday of the great judgment, where we are reminded of the powerful truth, one of the two great truths, that keep ups from the spirit of judgment, and that is that God is the judge and he certainly has fixed the day in which you will judge us all for sure, and that means we're not the judge. The second great truth to keep us from judgment is to remember that were sinners and if we're into judgment then we're done. We're done. The second spirit in my homily today that I want to focus on is the spirit of overwhelming love and compassion from the father, which is breath taking the parable of the Prodigal son. I've heard spiritual father say that if we lost the entire Bible and it was gone, like in the days of my patron saint, King Josiah, as long as we had the parable of the Prodigal son, we would know the global and the global vision of God and his relationship to all that he has made in especially to mankind, and it will be enough for us to find our way to repentance. That's how marvelous this text is. The powerful themes of the prodigal son have thrilled our people forever, literally for thousands of years. There's the theme of Sin, the theme of Repentance and then the really overarching theme of the inexplicable grace of the father. The theme of sin is prominent. It's revealed in the parable as severe famine. That's how sin is interpreted, severe famine slavery, to demons dying far from home, rooted in demonic energy that destroys our own personality, as we see the prodigal son just losing himself, just losing himself, degradation and ultimately sin, as ultimate emptiness and dissatisfaction. The theme of Repentance is also prominent, and repentance is revealed as coming to our senses, as getting up out of the Muck, as returning to our father,... confession, I have sinned against heaven and before the father. As penance, make me one of your hired servants, as resurrection. My son, who was dead, is alive again, as the cause of celebration in heaven and ultimately, as being found, escaping our lostness. This is how repentance is presented. But the most beautiful is the theme of the overwhelming love and compassion of God. It's most prominent and most precious. And notice the father respects the freedom of his son's this is a marvelous, marvelous presentation. What God gave to us in his image, in our own freedom, he respects irrevocably. It's easy to respect your child's freedom, as long as they use the freedom in a way that you want, when they use their freedom in the way that you want them to, way to go. Son, so proud of you, I respect you. But when your children use their freedom in an exceedingly painful way and even in betrayal, as in the parable today, it's much harder to respect their freedom. But that's exactly what the father in the parable dots do. You notice, from beginning to end, the absence of one thing, reproof. There is no reproof from the father, ever in the entire parable. I'm emphasizing this especially because the respect of freedom has disappeared from our culture. We live in a land where freedom is not cherished anymore and where people like us, who even represent us, are in the process of stealing our freedom like there's no tomorrow. They've stolen a lot of it, a lot already. Freedom is its talk is very low in our land. It's low because of our loss of the knowledge of God and who we are and the dignity of honoring someone's freedom. You know, right now, many of you are have been so gracious and so good to me and my family by praying for my mother, who has been suffering a great health crisis for some months now, over three and a half months and we're about to make some beautiful moves, I trust, so that she can come home. It's going to be exceedingly dangerous. We've been struggling as a family about it because it's not being recommended by her healthcare providers and my sister and myself and my family. We've been talking and struggling but, you know, by the grace of God, what has remained central to our discussion is her freedom even to choose something that maybe her son or her daughter or her physicians don't think is the absolute best, but it's important to her and that's enough. That's enough, and the fact that she has communicated this to us,...

...which she most certainly has. Even while she was communicating it and my eyes were kind of big on the inside, I'm like thinking to myself, yes, mom, yes, thank you for being you and for living the way you have taught me and doing it yourself. It's her choice. This is how God deals with us. If God was interested in protecting us by squelching our freedom, none of us would be here, none of us would, through our freedom and all the mistakes that we've made, have come to found find the grace of God and find the love of God, if God always wanted to keep us safe. Notice that the father concedes completely to his son's unjust amends. He speaks no word to dissuade him. Notice that the father refuses to resent his son when he was used and misused, even though his son totally abandoned him. Notice that the father remains disposed in his heart toward his son and he looks each day down the road. He doesn't go down the road. He stays in his house, which is a picture of the Kingdom of God. He doesn't do what the son must. He respects the need for his son to come to that himself, but his disposition is completely towards his son. And so it has him looking down the road and it evidently he's looking intensely, because it says in the text he saw him afar off before his son saw him. He found his son. He was looking. There he was. Then it gets even better. It says that when he saw his son far off, he ran to his son. Oh, Oh, who knows how old this man was, but he has two very grown sons and the man ran. It's supposed to be the opposite, the children run to the parents, but here he runs to his son. He isn't engaged by the father only after the son has come all the way home. What the father wanted to see was the repentance. What he wanted to see was the movement back and as soon as he saw it, as soon as they came into his vision, he acted. He didn't stand back and say, well, you know, keep coming, make up with all for all that you did. You have to fix this and that and that, and then I'll love you. It's not him at all. It's not him at all. Says that the father embraced him, kissed him before the Sun, said he was sorry. Did you notice that the apology came after the embrace? This is an amazing truth. Why is it that we're even enabled to repent? Why do we have the courage even to look into our own hearts and to speak the truth and to accept the truth about ourselves and then actually speak it out loud to God and even to our priest? Why? Because we know we're loved. It's the love that enables us to do it,...

...that gives us the courage to do it, not vice versa. Not our courage which secures the love. Father now saying Sophroni. In one of his books he writes about his first real confession after he had been a prodigal and had been in a distant land. Listen to his words. They're so profound. He says all my life appeared to me as a total lie. When I approached the priest, I was incapable of speaking because of my affliction and my tears and my pain of heart. I only wept. And, believe me, before I had begun to articulate my sins, the Lord himself came out to me and he fell on my neck and kissed me. I was dear to him, and he did not wait for me to say forgive me, just as in the parable of the Prodigal son, where the son said, father, forgive me, I have sinned against heaven and in THY sight, after his father had already taken him into his arms. What a night that was. It is impossible to describe in words how the Lord loves us. Wow, how the Lord loves you. This is the witness of this magnificent parable. Today, dear ones, I congratulate you, and you can congratulate me, on being loved by God. I'ment. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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