Looking beyond the most evident
The eldest son of the Parable of Prodigal son
I have already written an article, based on a book titled Hope for Judas written by Christoph Wrembek SJ. I will continue the reflections on the Lost Parables of the gospel of Luke here. Christoph slightly changed the order of parables to drive home the message.
What is interesting in the changed order? Son, who is a human being, knowing that he is lost could come back. Sheep, being lost in some rocky areas, can cry and the shepherd can go and save the lost sheep. Coin, doesn’t even know that it is lost; but the woman goes in search of it, finds it. This ordering helps us to unravel the depth of God’s love –which acts even when we are not conscious of being-lost.
It’s extremely important to focus on the character of the older son, to radically practice the message of the parable. We are happy to speak about that loving father, or the son who was lost, and later found. Definitely there are no characters similar to the elder brother in the parable of lost sheep or lost coin. But let’s imagine one in each of the parables. I think they would be angrier than the older brother. Atleast younger brother came back; sheep didn’t come back, but only cried; coin didn’t do anything.
Who plays the role of this older brother in our society, in our Church, in our families? Most of us, who normally obey the rules, who are normally in the good books. Now there is one difference when the parable becomes a reality. The character of father disappears. Or the love of the father has to be expressed through the church, the society or the family; which are often represented by “elder brothers”. These elder brothers are “good people”. But are they “generous enough” like that father to accept the young son who was lost? Are they “generous enough” to share with the one who lost everything by foolishly spending? Are they “generous enough to go and find the crying sheep? Are they generous enough to find the coin who is lost, but doesn’t even about the same? (This last question can be read by some as an invitation to tell everybody different from them as in a lost state; I don’t subscribe at all to that view).
Yes, it is difficult for the lost son to realise that he is lost and to come back. But it is more difficult for the “elder son” to accept that lost brother when he comes back. Because it raises the normal justice question, “how can we be treated in the same way?” To struggle with this question is an invitation from this parable of Jesus, and our response determines how much each one of us have imbibed this parable.