Prodigal Daughter – Part 2

Luke 15: 11-32

The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother

I wonder – where was the older brother all that time when the prodigal son was off partying? He was at home working the land. He was trying to live his life in a respectable manner, trying to do the right thing, and to just be an upstanding young man. He had tried very hard to be all that his father wanted him to be and yet when this kid brother showed up broke, starving, and stinking like pigs, he had to have felt cast aside as the welcome home party started without him.

I have often seen myself in this story as the prodigal, crawling home to God in disgrace, miserable in my broken, sinful ways, begging forgiveness He had already granted, and seeking His grace, which was within me all along, but I was too blind to recognize.

I am also disturbed to see myself in the judgmental older brother. I had prayed for some time now that my abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband would find God and change his ways. No sooner were the divorce papers and restraining order filed than he was in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament pouring his heart out to Jesus. He has gone nearly every night since. And there is that nasty little gremlin voice inside me saying, “Oh sure now he goes?” I see him now attending daily Mass two evenings a week and he has not missed a Sunday Mass in sometime now. He has become more involved in the parish over the past year and yet prior to that, he had questioned every activity in which I became involved. The more I see this, the more outraged I become. Which leads me to the great question – WHY? Why is okay for me to be the prodigal but not Bob?
I had to hit the lowest depths, the very edge of hell, to find my way back to God. Why should it be such tremendous leap of faith for me to accept that the same gracious and loving God who gathered me into His loving embrace would also reach out to gather up this broken man? Why is it so hard to accept that Jesus died on the cross as much for me as for Bob? I suddenly find myself filled with anger and outrage, demanding the vengeful justice of an authoritarian God. But if God were to deal with Bob according to the abuses he had inflicted on me, would He not also deal with me according to my own failings? Believe me, that would not be pretty as I have no great claims to sainthood.

It is my faith that leads me to accept that the great banquet of God’s grace flows through each and every one of us. Yes, even through Bob. As I struggle to forgive the man who beat me down mentally, emotionally, and physically, I find myself nudged into ever deepening involvement within the faith community. There, I continually find the strength and grace I need to understand God’s unconditional love flowing freely through others just as lost and just as broken.

I wonder if the older brother was able to finally enter the banquet and share the father’s joy over the return of the prodigal son. I wonder – did he stay away until all his anger and outrage was recognized and resolved or did he take the first step in faith, walking into the banquet uncertain if he could accept this scandalous brother? Did he take that step in faith knowing that his father loved him and wanted to share all the same wonderful gifts with him as well as his brother? Did he finally see that there had been times in his life when his father had forgiven him with the same loving embrace?

I wonder finally if I can take that bold step in faith. Can I accept that God sees the beauty and goodness in Bob, just as He could see in me at my worst moments of sin? I don’t have that answer yet. But I have faith that God will grant me His grace to accept the anger and outrage and that He will heal the pain at the heart of these emotions. I know that He sees me as both the prodigal son and the older brother, because they are both a part of me. He loves and accepts me as I am, no matter where I am on this journey and He walks beside me, guiding me home, just as He does with Bob.

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