Dear Parish Faithful,
Yet, as I shared yesterday in the post-Liturgy discussion, I am beginning to believe that perhaps the main character in the parable is the "other son" of the father, who can also be identified as the "unforgiving brother." This in no way diminishes the prodigal son's dramatic "change of mind" and his return to the loving embrace of his father; but it simply further enhances the depth of this seemingly inexhaustibly rich parable. (And, of course, a book-length discourse could be written about the father of the parable). I came across this very insightful paragraph from a contemporary biblical scholar, Brendan Byrne, on precisely that theme that I would like to further share with everyone:
In the original setting the parable serves ... to ward off the criticism the scribes and Pharisees mount against Jesus' celebration of God's acceptance. Doubtless, the early Church found in it, too, an analysis of Israel's problems with accepting the gospel of the crucified Messiah and the inclusion of Gentiles in the People of God. The applications are endless.
One perhaps that we should not omit considering is that of finding in ourselves and our communities the rather different patterns of sinfulness shown by the two brothers: the overt sinning of the younger, the resentment and resistance of the older - and to ask which of the two patterns of the parable suggests to be the more difficult for God to deal with.
But sinfulness is not in the end the main point. Fundamentally, like all the parables, the three stories in this chapter ask: "Do you really know God?" Or rather, "Are you comfortable with the God who acts with the foolishness of love displayed by the characters in these parables?"
From The Hospitality of God by Brendan Byrne (p. 132)
Perhaps the unforgiving brother poses the greatest challenge to us, in that it is this figure in the parable that we most resemble! The parables will never cease to challenge any form of "comfortable Christianity" that we embrace.