Pastoral Letter January 14, 2018

“And not many days after, it says, ‘the younger son gather all together, and took his journey into a far country’ (Luke 15:13). Why did the Prodigal Son not set off at once instead of a few days after? The evil prompter, the devil, does not simultaneously suggest to us that we should do what we like and that we should sin. Instead he cunningly beguiles us little by little, whispering, ‘Even if you live independently without going to God’s Church or listening to the Church teacher, you will still be able to see for yourself what your duty is and not depart from what is good.’” – St. Gregory Palamas

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We’ve often heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, in not so many weeks, we will hear it in the Church as we make preparations for the lessons of Great Lent. However, St. Gregory Palamas, in his above-sited quote, identifies a certain detail that admittedly, I’ve never noticed before. In Luke’s Gospel, we read, “The younger son said to the Father, ‘Father, give me my share to the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all he had, set out for a distant country and there squandered his wealth with wild living.”

Not many days after. In other words, in what was probably an awkward time in their family, the kid stuck around. Having surprisingly received his request (more like a demand) he now took the time to plot, scheme and plan.

St. Gregory makes the point that making the decision to sin, and executing that sin are two different actions. They rarely happen simultaneously. Typically, the decision is made, then acting on that decision will lag behind. Of course, the length of time lag is always different for every circumstance and every person. But why is this important?

St. Gregory is speaking specifically to our Youth – for he uses the Prodigal Son as his example. Actually, he is addressing those of us who are responsible for raising our children in the Faith, in the ways of the Gospel and in the Sacramental, Holy Traditions of the Church. We are challenged to teach our kids that the first action; that is deciding to sin, will happen always and for the rest of their lives. Our task is teach them that the second decision does not always have to be made.

The Prodigal Son, remained in the protective and loving environment of his Father’s House for at least a couple of days. Perhaps he wrestled with his decision. A modicum of spiritual warfare may have raged within his heart and soul. Perhaps if he recognized the goodness and the longsuffering generosity of his Father, he might not have set out on his path to destruction. But he was compelled to leave. The stronghold of the demons were too strong.

My Beloved, the need for Youth Ministry and keeping our children in the Fold of the Faith is critical. I’ve reminded you many times, that sports alone, will not place your children in the Kingdom. Acting classes, dance teams, lacrosse and the continuing list of our countless activities do not lead unto salvation if the weightier matters of life are neglected . Even at our little St. Anna parish, we offer the same opportunities to bring our children together as much larger communities. We offer more Youth Ministry programs than quite a few large parishes. So…

Please be mindful of them and bring your children. JOY, GOYA, Sunday School, Family Nights, Retreats, Summer Camps, even Folk Dance are programs that enrich our children’s relationships with each other and with the Lord. It needs to start early. Later this month, JOY will meet then GOYA will join them in a service project to help the homeless youth of our city. Please, bring your kids.

This weekend, the long weekend of Martin Luther King Day, there will be over 7,000 people gathered in the name of Youth Ministry in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis’ of Denver and San Francisco. Our annual GOYA Basketball Tournament will be in Dallas, while the west coast will come together with over 5,000 people to participate in FDF, their annual Folk Dance Festival. These kids will play games and perform. They will dance, laugh, hang out and build relationships. But it does not end there:

They will attend spiritual workshops,
They will pray for one another and others will pray for them.
They will be in the presence of their respective hierarchs.
They will attend divine services and participate in the Divine Liturgy in large, hotel ballrooms, surrounded by their peers.

Thousands of dollars will be spent for the purpose of bring our children together in His Name.

Please support your children in their quest for salvation and allow them to know the Lord. Let’s participate in the activities of the local parish, and support the programs in the larger settings. It starts with the adults acting on behalf of their children, grandchildren and godchildren. I, as always, look forward to serving the spiritual needs of your children; together with our dedicated and gifted group of teachers and youth workers.

Someday, our own children will depart from our homes, much like the Prodigal. Where will they go? Who will they be? How did we prepare them?

With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony