It’s practically a parable in all cultures and nations. The story of the spoiled and privileged son, full of potential and promise, squanders his gifts because he sees himself entitled rather than blessed. And we know the story always ends the same.
By the way, this principle of the dangers of great blessings being seen as entitlements is true of both physical and spiritual blessings.
This is exactly what our Lord encountered one day as He was being questioned by the religious leaders of His day. You see, these leaders had come to see themselves as the guardians of the special spiritual treasures of their people. They were there to protect the spiritual and cultural heritage given especially to them by God. But they forgot one all important truth. They were given these spiritual and cultural blessings to share all of their gifts with all of humanity. But soon they began to see themselves as especially chosen, set apart, just to be chosen and set apart. They forgot the true purpose of their blessings.
So they asked The Lord for a sign! “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (See Matthew 12:38-45, today’s Gospel Lesson)
The only sign these privileged people were ultimately to be given was the sign to remind them of the original purpose God intended when He chose them among all the people of the earth – to bring the Messiah into the world on behalf of the whole world. The Messiah was to come from them, and through them, save the entire humanity and reunite God and Man.
It is the same with us today. We, too, are still called to make the Good News of the Kingdom of God available to all humanity, especially the humans around us today. We who live on this side of the Resurrection of Christ and enjoy the full revelation of just how much God truly loves us are blessed beyond belief! But how easy that blessing gets confused with an entitled privilege rather than the amazing Gift is actually is to us.
There is only one sure way to avoid the sad end of those through the centuries that have fallen into the confusion of the gift with their own private privilege. That way is the way of “anamnesis” remembrance! And the only way to truly remember is to embrace the twin disciplines of humility and love. Humility helps us to forever hold in our hearts and minds the ultimate protection from falling into the trap of entitlement and that is the truth that we process a Gift, the Gift, and it wasn’t given to us because we were good or better than other people or smarter. No, we have this Gift because God loves us and wants us to know the power of loving others. Here humility to remember we have a Gift and the twin power of loving others keeps us far from the dangers of forgetting and falling into the shallow and ghettoizing trap of “we’re special, so we have to keep this to ourselves.”
Today, if we are to be truly Orthodox on Purpose, we have to keep learning the lessons of those who have gone before us, both the good lessons and the bad. We must always keep before our eyes the truly blessed Gift given to us, not because of merit, but because of love. And then let us mimic the Only Lover of Mankind and share this Gift based on the same reason we were given this Gift – love. Today, share your blessings with those around you. Learn to hold your life loosely and embrace generosity and you will lay up for yourselves “treasures in heaven” and you will be completely free.