Word Magazine November 1960 Page 10
THE UN-OPENED LETTER
By Rev. Fr. Michael J. Buben — Geneva, N.Y.
Specially written for THE WORD
Once upon a time there lived an Orthodox family in a happy Christian home. The father of the home was proud of the achievements of his youngest son, and the son had always been obedient and devoted to his parents. This family knew all the blessings of peace, love, and honor until almost overnight, it seems, the son fell on the path of ungodliness, and brought shame and sorrow to family, relatives, and friends.
He left home and wandered aimlessly throughout the country seeking ‘good-times’ and leading a life of complete dissipation. For many years, the parents could not find their son, but finally they succeeded in having a letter delivered to him.
The prodigal did not open the letter, because he recognized his father’s handwriting on the envelope, and feared that by reading the letter, he would learn of his father’s wrath and condemnation or worse. He placed the unopened letter into his battered suitcase, and would look at it only after unpacking the suitcase each time he moved from one flophouse to another. Each time he wondered whether he should read it or not, and each time it was put back unopened.
After many years he became seriously ill, and was taken to the county sanitarium. One evening while lying in his bed of pain, he felt that death was near. Feebly, he asked his nurse to bring him the letter, which, with a broken wristwatch and two moth-eaten suits comprised his sole possessions. With many tears he read the letter which said:
“Dear and beloved son, . . . By running away from home, you have broken the heart of your poor, unfortunate mother who grieves for you endlessly. Please return home and we will help you to start a new life, free from the evil and sorrow of the past. Enclosed is a ticket whereby the 707 Jet may soon bring you to us, also, a check to clothe and nourish you until you land safely in the harbor of our home. Please, please! Come home, come home! You who are weary, come home! You will be greeted by a happy mom, and with your brother and sisters, we shall endeavor to start a new and happy life for you in the sweet peace of God’s love. . . . Your forgiving father, always loving you, . . .”
The son read in the letter, that which he had least anticipated. Instead of being condemned and cursed, which he deserved, he would have been pardoned and all the past evil would have been forgiven by a loving and merciful father and family. He would have had every opportunity to fly to the path of righteousness and be reunited with family and friends. Now, everything was lost, because the letter was opened and read too late. He closed his wet eyes forever and died.
You, reader, may wonder why he could have been so stupid as to have kept the letter without reading it, until it was too late. The evil which clouded his mind did not permit him to open the letter, because a soul walking in the ‘council of the ungodly’. is blinded and hates to be reminded of its plight toward destruction. He could not think about the sorrow he brought to his parents, their long-suffering; and although the letter was not opened for fear of his father condemning him, perhaps the unopened letter was sufficient to make him think about the peace, love, and honor of the blessed home he had once known.
Perhaps, in your home you could find not one, but countless unopened letters. These are the letters from God to you. These letters compose the holy books of the Old and New Testaments. If you have not opened a church door for more than three Sundays, you are leaving unopened the letters from God sent to you through the ritual and music of the Church.
Some of you have the same relationship with the letters from Our Heavenly Father, as the man of our story had with the letter from his father. First, he did not open the letter, then, he did not read it, he did not think about it, and therefore, he did not do what his father asked him to do. Let us imagine that he had read the letter when he first received it. Surely, he would have followed his father’s wishes and been ‘alive’ in a joyful life — happily ever after.
Those who constantly seek only worldly ‘good-times’ and habitually dwell in dens of iniquity, know that by opening a Bible, they would find condemnation for their way of life. Sadly, they think nothing else would be met. They do not stop and look long enough to learn that Our God is a God of perfect and unblemished love who sent His only begotten Son to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance . . . The Bible calls us home, even when we fall up to our necks in the quicksand of sin and evil. God’s Word carries His love, mercy, and comfort to you. Many find the time daily to read newspapers, novels, magazines, and everything except the Word of God. Stop, look, and listen to the great loss we suffer because of this.
In the Bible we discover that Our Heavenly Father is calling for you and for me to return home, no matter how rotten we have become. We can obtain remission of the deadliest sin through repentance and the Body and Blood of Christ.
Read those letters! Read them now while there is yet light. Later may never be. God has written to you. Do not let the letters lie on the night table — unopened.