Day 14 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast
Abundance for a Lonely Son
‘Jesus, Friend of a lonely heart, You are my haven, You are my peace. You are my salvation, You are my sovereignty in moments of struggle and amidst an ocean of doubt…You are everything to a lonely soul.’ (247)
‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’ could just as well have been called ‘The Loneliness of His Older Brother.’ This story describes brilliantly two very different personalities with two very different responses to their generous father.
The prodigal bolted in search of a sexier inheritance; probably brash and impulsive, he rebelled against the mundane duties required of him ‘down on the farm’. Sin left him destitute until Mercy called him home, back to the house of his father.
In the meantime, his elder brother never left the father’s house and its affairs; he dutifully served his dad. A disciplined and steady worker, he was ‘in the fields’ of the father (Lk. 15: 25) when the party started for his brother’s homecoming.
My hunch is that the elder was religious and compliant, possessing an achingly clear sense of right and wrong. Readily shamed, he experienced his sin as internal and managed it by suppressing unacceptable feelings like lust, envy and self-righteousness. Perfectionism and guilt combined with a weak grasp of Mercy—here was a ‘good boy’ ready to combust!
God used the return of his brother to reveal his heart—the truth that the elder, for all his goodness, needed Mercy too. He could no longer manage his heart; it erupted in rage and envy against his brother. We might ask ourselves the same question: where is the justice in celebrating one who had been unfaithful when the other had never strayed? It’s as if the elder is demanding: “Honor my sacrifice, Father, not the Mercy!”
Perhaps deeper than the elder’s sin is his loneliness. That applies to many faithful ones who work hard in the Church and who stay virgins, who care deeply about their parents and wish not to dishonor them. What an excellent commitment to righteousness!
And yet one that needs care from the Father, lest such faithfulness lose its center and devolve into self-reliance and self-righteousness.
I have known many who struggle deeply with sexual conflicts and yet who remain faithful to God and the Church. Their biggest temptation is not to gross acts of immorality but to a kind of simmering envy toward the ‘prodigal’ as well as a sense of entitlement for their virginal ‘goodness.’ Unless tended to carefully with Mercy, these ones can ultimately be lost to the idols of this world, certain that the Father cares little about their quieter needs.
We need to hear the words of the generous father toward His resentful elder son: ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ (Lk. 15: 31) The Father would remind us similarly: My Mercies are new daily for your quiet ‘elder brother’ sins and needs.
We have never ceased to be the apple of His eye. May this parable give us pause to slow down and reflect upon the Mercy that is ours. Close the gap in our lonely hearts with the Presence of Your loving attentiveness, Merciful Father.
‘Who is weak and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn?’ St. Paul (2 Cor.11: 29)
‘Father, we too are weak. At times we are subject to desires that deride us, and a loneliness that only You fully understand. Would You draw near to us as we seek and serve You today? We have become dutiful in our gratitude to You. Remind us of Your Mercy for us. And for all the elder sons and daughters who have wandered, bring them back into the Heart of Your Mercy. Give us new sight into their suffering. Grant us Your heart for them today.’
Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com