The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother(s)

The Lord told this parable: “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.’  And he arose and came to his father.  But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.  Now his older son was in the field.  And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’  But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.  So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.  ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.  It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’    (Luke 15:11-32)

THE PRODIGAL’S OLDER BROTHER:

The parable also teaches us that we should not trouble ourselves when sinners repent and are received by God when we ourselves  are struggling, with God’s help, to live a life of righteousness.  We must not judge our neighbor’s life—that belongs to God alone—nor God’s bountiful mercy, but we must rejoice with Heaven when a sinner returns to the Father.     (Fr David Kidd, Mother Gabriella Ursache ed., Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion, pg 20)

THE PRODIGAL’S BRETHREN: 

“A similar emphasis appears in the parable of the Two Sons.  When the Prodigal repents of his profligacy and turns back home, he finds the father waiting for him with open arms.  Willing to be taken in as a hired servant, he is instead embraced and showered with gifts, to celebrate his “repentance”, his return to the father’s house.  The older brother, however, is filled with jealousy.  He has remained “faithful” to the duties expected of a son.  He has, we can say, played the role of the faithful Pharisee, respecting the rituals of daily life, including required chores and prayer.  Yet he condemns himself by comparing his deeds and attitudes to those of his younger brother.  Rather than rejoice at his brother’s return, he becomes sullen and resentful.  “The household is mine”, he thinks to himself; “I have remained faithful to it, and this fellow who left it of his own accord has no right to be received back.”  How many of us harbor similar thoughts and feelings regarding those of other Christian confessions, or of no confession at all?  “They abandoned the faith,” we think to ourselves, “therefore they have no business coming into our church, our parish!”  And in the midst of this hypocrisy, we wonder why the Church is not growing, why some are predicting that our parishes will simply wither away…”         (Breck, Fr John, “Peacemaking in the Parish:  Parish Ethics and the Teaching of Jesus” In Communion  Issue 42, Summer 2006, pg 4)

The Prodigal Son’s Father

Then the Lord Jesus told this parable: “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.’  And he arose and came to his father.  But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.  Now his older son was in the field.  And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’  But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.  So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.  ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.  It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'”  (Luke 15:11-32)

 THE REALITY OF THE FATHER’S LOVE: 

“Very often sufferings do not draw the soul towards God but rather depress it in a sterile manner and become meaningless.  Why were the sufferings of the prodigal son a means of salvation?  Why “having retired into himself”, did he discover the path of salvation?  Because he remembered “the house of his father”, because he was firmly convinced of its reality, because he loved it, because—and let us here discard the language of symbolism—that sinner believed in God.  This is the saving power of suffering.  This is what opens the gates of God’s house—the only gates at which it is worthwhile to knock.”   (Fr Alexander Yelchaninov in  G P Fedotov, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, pg 482-483)

 

GOD AS FATHER: 

Love does not depend on time, and the power of love continues always.  There are some who believe that the Lord suffered death for love of man but because they do not attain to this love in their own souls, it seems to them an old story of bygone days.  But when the soul knows the love of God through the Holy Spirit, she feels without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is our Father the closest and dearest of fathers, and there is no greater happiness than to love God with all our mind, with all our heart and with all our soul, according to the Lord’s commandment, and our neighbour as ourself.  And when this love is in the soul, everything rejoices her, but when it is lost sight of, man cannot find peace, and is troubled, and blames others as if they had done him an injury, and does not realize that he himself is at fault:  he has lost his love for God and has accused or conceived a hatred for his brother.

 Grace proceeds from brotherly love, and brotherly love is grace preserved; but if we do not love our brother, then the grace of God will not come into our souls.     (Archimandrite Sophrony, St Silouan the Athonite , pg 372)