Oh, that elder brother!
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
After the wonderful scene of forgiveness and reconciliation between the father and the younger son, we see the effect on his elder brother. He is not pleased. It seems like he feels that he has not been praised enough for his faithfulness. He didn't run off with the money and do all sorts of bad things only to come crawling back when the good times were over. He is feeling extremely ignored.
Some of us may recognize and understand that feeling. I'm the oldest child in my family, and for the most part, I did as I was told (although I may have muttered under my breath a lot.) I tried to please my parents and follow the rules. One time when I actually lost my temper and my parents were angry right back at me, I remember storming up to my room, yelling, "I AM NOT A TOWER OF STRENGTH, YOU KNOW!!!" Possibly that was a little over-dramatic.
Rule-followers don't tend to get as much attention as rule-breakers. So we can understand the elder brother's resentment.
But our eyes must be on the father. He goes out to the elder brother, just as he went out to the younger. He doesn't let him stew in his anger and resentment. And what does the father say?
Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
Had the elder brother stopped to think about that? Had he enjoyed the company of his father? Did he truly value what it meant to be working WITH his father, sharing all that the father has?
I don't think so.
At times in our lives, when we have made poor choices and regret them, we come crawling back to God asking forgiveness. But a lot of the time, we are doing our part, helping to build the Kingdom--and we are working with God, sharing what God has.
We need to stop and think about that. And enjoy the company of God.
If the elder brother truly valued being with his father, truly understood the goodness of his father, he would have wanted his brother to share in that, too.
Once again, I'm reminded of the True Vine. We are not individual flowers, side-by-side. We are ALL branches on the vine. When the sap does not flow well in one branch, the whole vine suffers. When that sap is restored, the whole vine is healthier. And this gives glory to God, the vine grower. No wonder there is rejoicing over the younger son coming home. The sap is flowing again! We can rejoice, too.