Remember the older brother of the prodigal son? He is the oft-overlooked sibling, who may yet have as much to teach us as his younger sibling.
Some have suggested that the two brothers represent the two ways in which people try to make life work. The younger son opts for “self-discovery,” on a quest for self-fulfillment. The older brother pursues a more more socially acceptable path. He obeys all the rules and expects that he will be rewarded.
But then his disreputable little brother, after breaking all the rules, repents and is showered with the most extravagant mercy. No wonder he screams at his Father: “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!”
The older son is green with seething jealousy. It’s unfair! I was supposed to be the good guy. Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. I think I’ll just eat dirt!
It’s almost funny the way he stands there stamping his feet. He’s so pathetic. Thank God we never act that way. Or do we?
When that brother of mine does so well in that class I stayed up studying for for three nights, while he was watching TV and going out for pizza…it’s not fair!
When that ‘ner do well down the hall has more friends than he knows what to do with and I, good and gentle soul that I am, can barely hold onto the few friends I have while sitting up nights worrying if anyone really cares about me at all!
When that other one is always getting praised for being so helpful and so kind, but I know what he’s really up to and how obnoxious he can be, he has the wool pulled over all their eyes…
And when that pious little fellow goes to the apostolate and has that nun wrapped around his little finger…she thinks he just ekes compassion and warmth, but she should hear what he says about them in the car on the way home…
We are each and too often green-eyed with jealousy and greed. Not always greed for possessions, but for prestige, for success and for the admiration of the screaming crowds. So green we shout to the heavens: “Give me the share I have earned!”
And the Lord smiles patiently and turns to us, the wounds he suffered for our salvation still bleeding from his hands, his feet and his side…and smiling he says, “You have earned nothing. All is gift…even the air you breathe. It is but by the gratuitous love of God that you live and move and seek my face.”
Greed, my brothers, is a potent lie whispered, by the devil into innocent hearts tempting them to seek their own glory, and not the ways of God.