|That’s big bro on the right passing judgment|
For years, I have pondered the apparent good fortune of people who engage in meanness and foolishness. Earlier this week, I grumbled that my good friend died young while an individual who has recently faced discipline for their lack of professionalism is “hale and hearty.” Another acquaintance, a woman of integrity and compassion, is facing a family tragedy. As someone who strives to always take the high road, I struggle with feeling compassion for others, especially if I don’t feel they deserve it.
Last Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of my favorites, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Each time I hear this parable, I hear something new or I relate to the story in a different way. At present, I hear the words of the indignant older brother.
“’Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!’ “Luke 15: 29-30, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version
How often do I cringe when someone I judge as unworthy goes unpunished or is even celebrated? I have no problem admitting one of my greatest flaws is my judgmental attitude.
The loving father offers wisdom, “‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15: 31-32, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version
The father does appreciate his elder son; he does not love him less because he is less of a problem child. The father wants to celebrate the willingness of his younger son to change. He wants to celebrate his younger son taking the first step to being a good person.
Like the elder son, I have a self-righteous streak. I focus on the other person’s flaws and wonder why they are reaping benefits I feel they haven’t earned. Also, I struggle with those who have yet to choose change. I find it challenging to have compassion for those who are in the throes of behavior I find problematic. It is hard work to learn to forgive and accept.
Once I was that prodigal child. I found forgiveness and joy in acceptance. I pray that someday I may act more like that loving parent, one who waits with open arms and open heart to receive a lost soul. I’m praying daily.