Let’s take a deeply honest look at the Brother Who Stayed at Home. Pope John Paul II describes him as “unconverted” (to Christ) in the previous paragraph. Why would he assert this? There’s a laundry list of sins:
(E)very human being-is also this elder brother. Selfishness makes him jealous, hardens his heart, blinds him and shuts him off from other people and from God. The loving kindness and mercy of the father irritate and enrage him; for him the happiness of the brother who has been found again has a bitter taste.
Items on this list have touched all of us. Maybe not in the torrent depicted in Luke 15:28-32, but certainly in pieces here and then in our lives. The elder brother has an Old Testament parallel. If you were at daily Mass earlier this week, you got a dose of the man mentioned in the footnote:
(In the Old Testament, the Book of Jonah is a wonderful anticipation and figure of this aspect of the parable. Jonah’s sin is that he was “displeased…exceedingly and he was angry” because God is “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. His sin is also that of pitying a castor oil plant “which came into being in a night and perished in a night” and not understanding that the Lord pities Nineveh. cf Jonah 4.) From this point of view he too needs to be converted in order to be reconciled.
Perhaps this is why “continuing conversion” is such an important principle in today’s Church, even when it is repeated, perhaps with a flawed understanding, to the point where it just seems like more theobabble. But we all need it.
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