Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 6: … To the Brother Who Stayed at Home, Part 1

… To the Brother Who Stayed at Home

Note that Pope John Paul II spends almost twice as many words on the elder brother than the returnee. I’m not sure many insiders would notice also the ascendancy of the stay-at-home brother in the Church in those years 1978-2013. The two popes certainly would not have been personally advocating for such behavior. But much of the bitterness of the past eight years has certainly been found quite similar to the protests of elder brothers and sisters in the Church.

Let’s read just the first paragraph of this section, and save the rest for later.

But the parable also brings into the picture the elder brother, who refuses to take his place at the banquet. He rebukes his younger brother for his dissolute wanderings, and he rebukes his father for the welcome given to the prodigal son while he himself, a temperate and hard-working person, faithful to father and home, has never been allowed-he says to have a celebration with his friends.

One sign in the Church: does a person offer criticism far and wide? Pope, bishops, women religious, Catholic schools, especially those of higher education, politicians, and so forth. It shows an underappreciation for mercy:

This is a sign that he does not understand the father’s goodness. To the extent that this brother, too sure of himself and his own good qualities, jealous and haughty, full of bitterness and anger, is not converted and is not reconciled with his father and brother, the banquet is not yet fully the celebration of a reunion and rediscovery.

It is a serious charge to call a believer “not converted.” Conversion is first referenced to Christ, and in the worst of persistent situations, I think it might be safe to question if such Christians are even converted to Jesus Christ. Without a willingness to imitate Jesus and given the repeated instances of forgiveness and mercy shown by the Lord, it certainly makes me wonder what Gospel is being read.


This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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