Friday, March 17, 2017

WAS THE ELDER BROTHER SHORT-CHANGED?


March 18th, 2017: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32.

Was the older brother short-changed? Don’t we have a sneaky feeling that his complaint was justified? Unlike his shiftless younger brother, he’d never left home. He’d never asked for his father’s money. Nor had he wasted what his father had been good enough to give him.   

All that is true. But the older brother=s reaction to his younger brother’s shame-faced return shows that the elder brother too was in a distant country: physically at home, but far removed from his father=s attitude of love. He never noticed his father=s grief all the time his brother was away. Now that he is home again, the elder brother refuses to acknowledge him. AYour son,@ the older brother calls him, as if to say: AYour son, perhaps, but no brother of mine.@ He is filled with resentment, envy, and hate. Yet the father does not condemn this son any more than he had condemned his younger son: AEverything I have is yours,@ he reminds the elder brother. Farther than that love cannot go. 

AWho in the story suffered the most?@ a Sunday school teacher asked the class after reading them this story. One of the brightest children answered at once: AThe fattened calf.@ Next to the fattened calf, however, comes the older brother who remains outside while the party goes on inside. He does not even taste the fattened calf he himself probably helped to raise. 

Or did he? Did he change his mind and go in after all? Jesus doesn=t tell us.  Jesus leaves the story open-ended. He does so because us wants us to supply the ending. This Mass C every Mass C is a celebration of our heavenly Father=s freely given love and forgiveness. The price of that forgiveness was the poured out blood of his Son, who, as St Paul tells us, “did not know sin, but whom God made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We supply the ending to the story by confronting honestly the questions Jesus is putting to each of us right now:

Is the Mass for you a celebration of joy at your heavenly Father’s love, given not just to good faithful people like yourself, but to all, without limit? In other words C Have you heard the good news? Are you joining in its celebration?