Welcome to Holy Week! It’s that greatest week of the Church year when we must confront ourselves in all our capacity to reject God, and then overcome that rejection and run back to Him even as He comes to us. With that in mind, I’m bringing in a dear friend, Kyle George, to give us two guest posts on the parable of the prodigal son to meditate on this week.
A Tale of Two Brothers and a Father Who Loves Them: The Lukewarm Brother
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The Story of the Prodigal Son is one that always speaks to my heart not because of the typical interpretation of a wayward son squandering his inheritance on sinful ways of living only to be forgiven when he returns home to his father. It speaks to my Catholic Faith. Especially, concerning the two brothers. I will concentrate this writing on the older brother who is consistently seldom talked about, yet he can teach us so much about our Catholic faith.
The next writing will be on the younger brother and his father.
A prodigal is a person who recklessly spends their money on lavish ways of living. Like the younger brother, the older had all that he needed to be happy, yet he neither spent it recklessly nor appropriately. He never took advantage of the good that he had from his father for his benefit. He toiled and labored on his father’s land. He followed the rules, but took his good life for granted becoming lukewarm. The oldest brother is the Catholic who knows the goodness of the faith. They know the rules. They know the teachings enough to take them for granted. At least the younger brother could be given some benefit of the doubt for not really knowing the good that he had or how to use it well. The older brother knew very well, but never used it for any reason good or bad. It’s a horribly grave tragedy to know you have a gift and squander it because you don’t know how to use it well. It’s an even worse tragedy to know you have a gift, know that you can use it, but never even try to use it at all.
So, often in my Catholic life I have heard stories of my fellow Catholic brethren not taking their faith seriously. I have seen so many fall into complacency in their faith. I did not become Catholic to watch my people, who I chose to participate in this faith that I love, squander this great gift of being Catholic because they do not know the beauty of it! The Catholic Church is the greatest means of salvation. The Catholic Church is the fullness of truth. She, and only She, is completely united to the Son and guided by the Holy Spirit to lead us to the Eternal Father who spoke us into being from the dust through the Word (His Only-Begotten Son) and breathed life into us by the Holy Spirit so that we can have eternal life through following the fullness of truth (the Catholic Faith) to get there. If any Catholic actually fell in love with the faith because someone convinced them in their heart that they should care about knowing what She offered in Her truth, then they would be a Saint.
The sin of the older brother is that while he had all that he needed to be happy, he never took advantage of it. He never loved His father enough to use what his father had for his good. God has so much for us to use for building up the good in ourselves enough so that by our holy living we can in turn help others become holy. Each of us is uniquely gifted and God gives us the Church, Her Sacraments (especially, Confession and the Eucharist), Her Saints, and Her Doctrines to become perfect as Her Heavenly Father is perfect. Her goal is to make us more like God. That is why the Son became man. By His taking on a human nature while still maintaining His Divine Personhood we could one day have a perfect human nature well enough to participate in the Divine Personhood of the Triune God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 460.) Her goal is that we can embrace the Father, because He is our Father too. We must be bold enough to ask for His graces (His gifts) using it for the benefit of becoming Holy so that the world may know the love and goodness of God. That way no one can possibly take their faith for granted like the older son nor squander it like the younger son in wayward living.
For I became Catholic to become Holy. I became Catholic because I love it. So, love it. She is the truest means of salvation. All the Father has given through His Only-Begotten Son is yours. So, take advantage of the grace of the Holy Spirit to do good things in this life so that you can be supremely happy in the next.