"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!'Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"
The story of the Prodigal Son has three characters - the returning younger son, the stay-at-home elder son and the father.
When you read the story this year, ponder with whom you most identify. Are you the father who showed mercy, compassion and love even in the face of a family member who made terrible mistakes? Are you the prodigal son who was impatient to leave home and make his fortune but made bad judgments? Or are you the elder son who remained faithful to his father but received no recognition for his loyalty and hard work?
Haven't we all felt like the elder son at some point in our lives? All of us know of or have heard of people who have become rich or famous not through hard work but through luck or the exploitation of others. Is it fair that they get recognition and riches? The rest of us continue to work hard and remain loyal to our families and communities but will never achieve fame and fortune. No one is going to give us a wonderful party just for showing up day after day. It's easy to understand why the elder son was angry and resentful.
We know the father and the younger son are reconciled after their long separation. But the story fails to tell us whether the elder son ever stops resenting his younger brother. I would hope that eventually the brothers become reconciled but bitterness has a way of ruining relationships, sometimes forever. Think about your own family members or former friends against whom you may hold resentment. Is it time to become reconciled and join in the feast?