"THE LOVE BROTHERS"
Hello Everyone! Here is my homily for the FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - March 14, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/031410c.shtml (In some parishes, because of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults [RCIA] they will read the gospel on the Woman at the Well) Thanks for reading and your feedback and comments are always appreciated! God Bless!
“So help me - the three of you better knock it off. I’m going to make you three THE LOVE BROTHERS.” So said my father to my brothers Chris and Craig and I in yet another eventful family trip up to visit Grandma and Grandpa for Sunday Dinner. Yeah we were pretty out of control to get Dad that fired up. We usually knew better than to rattle his cage. Mom was a different story - it was easier to set her off, which now with some reflection, we did with a cruel amount of regularity on a daily basis. Often times waiting till Dad had left for work and before he had come home to get our lunacy out of our systems.
This particular occasion didn’t come out of the goal of seeing how much we could annoy Mom. This was a pretty bad fight that we were having in the back of the car, that had come after a long weekend of fighting. If the chain of events in my mind is correct - it started on Saturday morning when my oldest brother Chris had hid in my bedroom closet. Craig was able to convince me to go get a board game from said closet that he assured me was because he wanted to play with me (how foolish and trusting I was at age 5...) And shocker of shockers - Chris scared the daylights out of me which made the two of them laugh their heads off.
Being the youngest there wasn’t a lot of ways to get even if I played fair. So later in the day I came up with a plan. I broke one of Chris’ records - that I knew Craig had been listening too, figuring that Chris would blame him. (Yes I might have been weaker, but learned well from my brothers how to be pretty sneaky) Sure enough that launched a nice fight between the two of them as Craig denied breaking the record and blaming me, who in an Oscar worthy performance – record? What record? - was convincing enough for Chris to continue to blame (and punch Craig). Craig, no idiot by any means, knew what I had done and promised to “get me.”
For the most part as long as we hadn’t reached a certain volume upstairs, Mom and Dad wouldn’t wade into our sibling affairs. So they heard us, shouted a couple of times to “cut it out” throughout the day on Saturday (which was our cue to punch and argue quieter). The anger, the not talking to each other continued between the Chern brothers throughout the weekend. Then of course there were the moments it was quiet - too quiet in the house especially at the dinner table. When we were questioned at dinner “what’s going on” we responded “nothing.”
So here it was the next day - we were going to Grandma and Grandpa’s. The three of us still fuming getting in the back seat. Never wanting to leave well enough alone, I decided this was a great opportunity to fight that I was not going to sit in the middle. Shoving ensued in the driveway. Mom yelled to STOP IT AND GET IN THE CAR. We did but now tempers were flared once again. I suppose I was encroaching on Craig’s part of the back seat. So he shoved me which pushed me into Chris, who then reached over me to punch Craig again... at which point my Father losing all patience yelled “SO HELP ME, THE THREE OF YOU BETTER KNOCK IF OFF – I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU THREE THE LOVE BROTHERS.”
Now the volume he had yelled this at us probably could be heard by others flying by us on the Garden State Parkway, and after he was done there was about 6 seconds of absolute silence in the car. It was then that my oldest brother Chris (always with perfect timing) couldn’t contain himself and mockingly said “we’re the LOVE brothers...” at which point the three of us started to laugh - and that effectively ended the hostility.
I am sure at the time I believed I was in the right and that my brother’s were to blame. And each of us could have effectively made legitimate cases of being wronged by the others. In fact, something tells me that if this came up at a Sunday dinner this weekend, a very interesting debate would unfold. Yet the reality was we all shared in the blame to some extent. Knowing the three of us, my parents knew that all of us had messed up, all of us contributed to the anger in the house. And the only way to effectively bring healing to it was to stop fighting, to be reconciled, and reminding us who we were supposed to be the Love Brothers.
It’s easy for us to look at this parable and think about moments in our own lives - moments of anger, moments we’ve felt wronged and wanted it to be made right (– right now...) and to identify with the Older Brother and feel that the youngin is getting one over on the old man while here we are, doing what we’re supposed to do... it’s not fair!
Looking at what was happening it’s easy to see the older brothers point. The younger son has basically said to his father - “You’re not dying fast enough for me, so give me my inheritance.” The Father does, and then the kid goes and wastes it away in a life of sin...partying, sleeping around...He takes the riches from the father and blows them all. So here comes this “good-for-nothing” coming home after all that and what is this? The Father goes and runs after him? Embraces him? Throws a party for him after all that???? We want to join the older son and argue with him that the younger son is “getting away with it again...” and say to the Father “don’t you realize how foolish you’re being after what he’s done?”
The reality though the Older Son is just as bad as the younger. Because obviously the financial inheritance was important to him too – very important to him. So he becomes judgmental, he becomes filled with jealousy and envy towards his brother (I DIDN’T EVEN GET A GOAT TO EAT WITH MY FRIENDS! ) - He becomes angry not just at his brother but his father too. In the process, the Older son doesn’t realize that he too has squandered the father’s greatest gift, his most precious inheritance - his amazing Love for the two brothers.
I’m not sure many of us see it that way, probably because we know how easy it is for us to know when we’re right and our brothers and sisters are wrong.. We recognize pretty easily how in the wrong the younger son has been and there’s a part of us who doesn’t disagree with the older son’s arguments. Interesting thing, we never do hear if the older brother eventually joins the party for his kid brother, even after his Father pleads with him.
We can only hope that he did though. Because if the older brother cannot forgive his younger brother - realizing that perhaps he too has been young and foolish; If he cannot embrace the “prodigal son” recognizing how his own sins have also hurt the Merciful Father, If he cannot see how the two young men do need to become the “Love Brothers” themselves- the Older Brother will have squandered the Father’s most precious gift that He wishes to share with all of his children his amazing merciful Love. God’s lavish generosity will not change. As he graciously embraces us AND our brothers and sisters we KNOW are wrong. The question is will we change? Can we join the Father’s embrace and be healed and reconciled with those who we’ve been angry at, carrying a grudge against, maybe went so far as to say that they are “dead” to us. If we don’t, if we don’t attempt to become the “Love Brothers (and sisters) ourselves, we risk squandering that same precious inheritance.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern