Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the other son

Question: What causes sibling rivalry?
Answer: Having more than one child.
Of course it is not recommended to have just one child, especially if the married couple has been blessed with the capacity and resources to have more children. I have been blessed with four children, all boys with ages ranging from 5 to 21 years old. There is no sibling rivalry, simply because our scrappy 5-year old happens to dominate all of us.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most famous parables taught by Jesus. There are many enlightening interpretations and reflections on this beautiful parable, mostly focused on the prodigal son and the loving, forgiving father. There is however, a third personality in the parable that deserves more attention than he gets - the other son. In Pope Benedict's book "Jesus of Nazareth", he accords a beautiful reflection on the other son and I want to share this.

...The older brother now makes his appearance. He comes home from working in the fields, hears feasting at home, finds out why, and becomes angry. He finds it simply unfair that this good-for-nothing, who has squandered his entire fortune - the father's property - with prostitutes, should now be given a splendid feast straightaway without any period of probation, without any time for penance. That contradicts his sense of justice... Bitterness arises in him: "lo, these many years I have served you, and I have never disobeyed any of your commands," he says to his father, "yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends" (Lk 15:29).

The father goes out to meet the older brother too, and now he speaks kindly to his son. The older brother knows nothing of the inner transformations and wanderings experienced by the younger brother. of his journey into distant parts, of his fall and his new self-discovery. He sees only injustice. And this betrays the fact that he too had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits, that his obedience has made him inwardly bitter, and that he has no awareness of the grace of being at home, of the true freedom he enjoys as a son. "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours" (Lk 15:31).

The parable breaks off here; it tells nothing of the older brother's reaction. Nor can it, for at this point the parable immediately passes over into reality. Jesus is using these words of the father to speak to the heart of the murmuring Pharisees and scribes who have grown indignant at his goodness to sinners...

The Holy Father makes an inspiring reflection of how Jesus woos the heart of the misguided. This reflection is timeless, and its reality is here and now.

Here is a video clip of a sibling rivalry in another species, yet it amusingly reminds us of a human reality.

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