When I was young and my parents were missionaries in France, I used to envy the people they converted to Christ. They came from such utter darkness that the light of Jesus entranced them and dramatically turned their lives around. As a person who was raised in Christianity, I had never lived outside of Christ’s love and I would never understand what it means to have been far from such grace. These converts were so deeply grateful and I was so entirely habituated.
My understanding has become more nuanced with time and I am thankful for the grace that allowed me to be born to loving Christian parents, but somewhere in my heart I still know that jealousy. I am not envious of the Prodigal Son off in a glittering foreign land, but I am covetous of the son who, having known starvation, is shod and robed and fed by a jubilant Father. I am that older brother who watches his errant brother’s return with eyes that envy rather than love.
This Lent I am coming to understand that I am both brothers. Yes, these many years I have served the Lord and it sometimes feels like that does not amount to much. But as a sinner I have also deeply grieved my Father’s heart by taking his gifts and using them for my own devices. In my heart I am often prodigal and am constantly reminding myself to arise and go to my Father.
Either way, the fact remains that the Father invites me in to his feast. He met both of his sons outside and entreated them to come join the celebration. He wants all of his children to enter through the narrow door into his house, and to make sure we understand he came to earth to invite us personally. No matter what son we relate to and what sins we have committed, Jesus throws open the door even in Lent and invites us to keep the feast.
Listen to Stephen Gauthier’s sermon from last Sunday, “The Older Brother’s Tale: The Scandal of Forgiveness.”
Click here to download the Lenten Prayer Card and Schedule.