In the parable of the prodigal son, we see a young man who is incredibly selfish. “Let me have my share of the property and inheritance.”
When does one get an inheritance? When your benefactor or elder dies. So, essentially, the son was saying, “Hurry up and die so I can get what is coming to me.” Yet the Father gives the son his inheritance and lets him go. This is free will (see my post on Hell: God is good.)
Thus, the son sets out into the world. The Greek word describing the world the son sets out into means: “The Great Emptiness.” Why was the son setting out in to a empty sea of nothing? Because he had rejected his Father – who is God.
The son eventually discovers, after learning from the school of hard knocks, that even his Father’s servants have it better than him. So he decides to simply be his Father’s servant, comes home as the penitent sinner, and is embraced and loved by his Father.
He is given a ring for his finger (sign of a kind of spiritual marriage) and shoes on his feet (sign of being brought back to a state of respect) and his Father then throws him a party. What a life. What a conversion story.
Meanwhile, out in the field…
At this same time, the elder brother/son is out in the field. Fr. Robert Barron says this is a kind of mini-separation. Even though he is present with his Father physically, his spirit and will is not present in the relationship.
The Father comes out to His oldest son and pleads for him to come and celebrate – his younger brother is home again! But the older brother refuses, and then goes on to question the Father’s generosity. After all, his younger brother had squandered everything he was given, and now he gets the special treatment? While he, the older brother, had stayed and was faithful to his Father never got anything special.
The Father goes on to try to show the oldest brother how he had missed the point. Everything the Father had was already his! But the oldest brother fails to see this, even in the end.
When I was at Stubenville summer conference, I had the same experience as the oldest brother. I sat and listened to amazing speakers (Leah Darrow, Sean Forrester) about how Christ had changed their lives from rock bottom to top of the mountain, and they were now living their lives to please only Him. And then I looked at me.
I have been on this world for seventeen years and sometimes I wonder if I have anything to prove for it. There is a Christian comedian who sums this up: “I wish I had been a drug addict! I wish I had an awesome conversion story!”
So I brought this problem to a priest in confession and explained to him my jealousy over these amazing relationships with God that these people had. I am a cradle Catholic and I have been to Mass more times than I can count. I have believed in the real presence since it was taught to me in second grade. I have it all, and I don’t get why the convert is happier then me. It’s not fair. (That’s the jealous brother in me talking).
The priest then asked me how blessed I was. I was taken aback. “I’m not here to talk about my blessings! I’m here because I’m jealous!” But then I realized what he was getting at. I am blessed. I have known the beauty of Catholicism since I was baptized as a baby. Yet I have gone through the motions and not fallen in complete love with the gift I’ve been given.
I’ve been trying to take this priest’s advice – and count my blessings. Rediscover my faith and fall in love with Christ. It’s involved a lot of work, research, study, prayer and time with Jesus in adoration, but let me tell you: it’s worth it. It’s worth it to see how your faith is the one, true Church founded by Christ. It’s worth it to see the beauty and sheer miracle of the real presence. It’s worth it to be able to defend my faith when someone questions a Catholic practice. But best of all, it is worth it to fall in love with the Creator of the universe who loves each of us as if there is only one of us (C.S. Lewis).
Do you have any questions or comments? Do you struggle, like me, to give up the jealous older brother mentality? Let me know in the comments below!
God bless you all,