Monday, 11 March 2013

The Older Son

The title commonly given to yesterday's Gospel reading is "The Prodigal Son" and although the older son comes in mainly to the end the parable is just as much about him as the other.

We all know and acknowledge the sinfulness of the younger son, how he repented, returned home and was was welcomed back by his father's love for him. However his brother did not welcome him back. In fact his brother was not even around when the prodigal returned, he was out in the field going about his day, doing his duty. That's a good thing right, he is good and doing what his father expects of him, right? Maybe, but didn't Jesus chastise Martha for chastising Mary for not helping and just sitting there at the Lord's feet. The only reason the father was able to run out the greet the younger son while he was so far off was because he was looking for him, everyday since he left, so maybe the father expected his other son to be there with him looking out too. Maybe he expected his other son to be a fresh pair of eyes, younger eyes to be at his side looking, seeking the one that was lost to them.

I don't even think that the older son missed his brother all that much, he was probably glad he was gone. After all one is unlikely to just wake up one morning and decide to leave, the younger had to be chafing at the bit of his father's rules for a while, getting into trouble, maybe even leaving his older brother to clean up his messes.

He could have been angry at his brother who basically wished their father dead by what he did also the younger didn't just leave his father behind, he left his brother too.

The older brother is not much for mercy, he doesn't believe that his brother deserves to be welcome back. His brother definitely doesn't deserve the fatted calf after all the wrong that wayward has done and he the good one doing all that is right has never even been offered a baby goat to celebrate with his friends.

He's not much for love either. St Paul say "If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal". Well the older brother is just a noisy, resounding gong, he considers the work he does simply as "slaving" for his father, following his "orders". He did not work his father's fields out of love, he did not obey his father out of love, he doesn't even speak to his father now out of love.

Maybe he feels slighted after all he came in from the fields all on his own to notice the party going on, did anyone think once about him since his brother's return. Did anyone think to send for him to rejoice in his brother's return. How long have they been celebrating and did they even notice he was missing, he has been here all along and yet they seem to have forgotten him now that the wayward one has come back.

When I started writing this post I had all the points as to why the other son was an unfeeling cad who was an even bigger sinner than his brother because he did not acknowledge it. He is still a sinner but I realize the points are not that clear. Often times we, (I) are the older brother towards reverts, we should be happy for them but then we are not. We often have a justification, sometimes we know we are being petty and trivial but then there are times we feel justified in our judgments.