The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother
A lot of people don’t like the parable of the Prodigal Son found in the Gospel of Luke (15:11-32). I LOVE this parable, but like many others, always had a tough time with the younger son. I mean, he goes to his Father, basically sees him as already dead, asks for his share of the estate, goes off, and after wasting it away in a foreign country, comes back to his Father’s waiting, open arms. All the while, the older brother has stayed with Dad, doing what he’s supposed to do, and Dad throws a party for the wayward son—what’s wrong with this picture??!
Love And Mercy are the Answer
For years, I identified with the older brother. I felt sorry for him, and felt that the Father was a bit unfair in basically taking the younger son back in just like that—no penance, no penalties, nothing but a new ring, sandals, and robe, and a great party to welcome him back.
Then I had children and found I could relate to the Father’s reaction. I got older, and more patient, and started to see why the Father had done what he had done, and reacted the way he had. Love and mercy. That’s what God is about. Don’t get me wrong—he’s also about justice, but when repentance comes first, and comes on its knees to the altar of love, mercy is what comes. It can’t work the other way around, though. If there’s no repentance, justice comes first.
A Father’s Love
So here’s the younger son, working in the pig pens, feeding pods to the swine,
“And he wanted to fill his belly with the scraps that the swine ate. But no one would give it to him.” (Luke 15:16).
No one would give it to him. But he was in charge of handing out the pods to the swine, why couldn’t he just take them and eat them? Because his conscience had come back to life. He was not going to steal the pods. It is when his conscience revives, that he decides he’s going to go back to his Father, whom he had wronged, ask for forgiveness, and do whatever he has to, to survive.
Meanwhile, Dad has been watching and waiting every single day for his wayward son, whom he loved deeply, to return. The older brother has continued working the farm, probably grousing about his loser brother every time he sweated behind the plow and herded the animals, not ever wanting to see him again.
Then, in answer to the Father’s prayers, in the distance through the heavy haze, the Prodigal Son is trudging slowly toward the farm. From that distance, he really can’t be clearly identified because he is gaunt and his clothes are ragged, but the Father knows the Son, and there is no mistaking that walk. Dad runs as fast as his legs will carry him, arms out, joyously crying out his Son’s name at the top of his lungs, finally reaching the Son and hugging him so hard, they look like one person, not two.
The Son apologizes, but he can’t even get all his words out because the Father is holding the Son’s face in his hands, kissing his dusty and dirty face repeatedly.
What About the Older Brother?
Maybe he stayed with Dad out of obligation, and maybe a little love. He certainly didn’t lose much love for his younger brother, resenting what he had done, and how he had done it, leaving him to do all the work. The older brother had no parties with his friends. Envy, resentment, and maybe some hate, seethed within him. These are emotions that the older brother may have been carrying, and they all erupted when he heard the partying as he came in from the fields.
The Father wanted the older brother to join in the celebration, but he was absent. He goes out looking and finds him “indignant, and…unwilling to enter” (Matthew 15:28). The Father pleads with him, but the son reveals his own anger and envy. The Father tells him that he is always with him and that everything the Father has is his. He also encourages his eldest to rejoice with him, because his brother, who was lost and dead, has been found, and revived.
There is Always Room For Love
I remember times when I have harbored anger, envy, or resentment toward my brother. But doing as the Father wants, and opening my heart, releasing any resentment and hate, I make room for the love that a saved soul brings to me. I myself will then be found and revived, allowing the Father’s love to carry me back to God’s presence and His Family.
Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.
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