I have always been able to relate to the brother who remained at home, doing his duty as he saw it. Every time I read this parable of the son who was lost and is found, there is a kernel of anger that gets misdirected: to the father, to the returning brother, to Luke for telling this parable, to Jesus for siding with the "wrong" brother. What about me? I think. I have almost always been the one who does the right thing, performs the grunt tasks, makes sure things get done. I'm not the one who went out drinking and whoring around, wasting my money, making myself destitute because of the idiotic choices I have made. Self-righteousness can bubble up so naturally some times.
I can relate to that stay-at-home brother going outside to sulk when the celebration is going on and then letting his father know he is insulted and hurt because of the joy felt for the raggedy-one who had all the fun.
And right there is the rub, is the kernel of how I get the story wrong. Did that way-ward son really have fun in his drinking and whoring? Once he had finished using that money, and being used by it and the people around him, he was cast aside and he realized what he had lost. Not the money, but being treated like a human being, being loved as we are created to be loved and to love in return. And that love was always there for him to return to, just as it enveloped, at all times, the stay-at-home brother.
There may be allure and excitement to the life the brother who left the homestead lived, but that luster disappears quickly and the emptiness of it becomes apparent, the danger of it is real. When I over-identify with the sulking brother, thinking about what I perhaps have missed, I try to think about the things I haven't missed by being the stick-with-it person. Resentment is an emotion that can bubble up, but it doesn't have to control our actions and decisions. Bringing a lost soul home is much more important.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.