|Sunday Gospel||Luke 15:1-32|
There were once two brothers. The younger brother woke one morning from a dream with a sense of destiny calling out to him. He went to his father and asked for his share of his father's fortune. When his father divided what he had between them, the younger son gathered all that he could carry and left for a country far, far away.
As soon as he crossed the border into the new land he felt a change in the air. Delighted,he found a town and visited the local market so as to dress himself in the fashion of the people. Though everyone could tell he wasn't one of them. It didn't matter though. He had so much to offer and they crowded around him enjoying his generosity and good nature. He was a one-man band of entertainment and merriment. It seemed that, whenever he was around, everything was brighter. Everyone was invited to be part of his good fortune; even those who would barely speak to each other any other time would find themselves eating and drinking together into the early hours. He was the toast of the town, spending as if there was no tomorrow.
In time, though, the novelty began to wear off; life had its problems that dragged people away with better things to do. Gossip and jealousy ruined the friendships and the little community that had grown around him. In not much more time, doors and faces were closed and the generosity, that had only ever flowed one way, was dammed and stagnant. Abandoned by those who had called him 'friend', he now lived in despair and rejection.
'So much for my fine plans; the dream that should have died with the dawn', he thought. 'I'm emptied out; scrabbling in the mud for a kind word and more a stranger than I ever was. The only way left is back to my father. Maybe my failures will make him feel sorry for me. Maybe there's a place, out of his sight, where he would let me serve.'
His father's house was on the brow of a hill and, in the passing of time, the Father had built a strong, high tower. He would spend all his waking hours watching the caravans cross the horizon; prayer beads slipping through his fingers. So, of course, he was the first to see the tiny speck of movement on the trade road and to recognise the step of his son. He tore down the stairs and out through the courtyard; snatching up his young son as if he were a little child; rocking him against his chest and feeling his hot tears sink thirstily into the dusty film of dessicated skin.
"Father...' All the excuses fell away; the last of his strength fell away. He would have collapsed to the ground had the servants not run to catch him. The younger son heard his father calling them to go to his room- his room- and get the fine clothes he had left behind. Heard his father calling for a feast; a celebration. Heard his father calling, in joy, for all to come and celebrate his return; his resurrection from abandonment. And what joy there was, throughout the household.
But in the fields, the sun glowered down without joy. In the fields, the elder son flexed his back and rolled his head from side to side, feeling the 'click' of stressed vertebrae. He caught the sound of laughter and music. In the middle of the day?
He stopped the gatherers and the workers with their scythes; sent the carts of harvested wheat to the barn and headed home; cloak halo-ing his head as he squinted towards the sounds of festival, breathing in the appetising scents of rosemary, garlic and roasted meats.
Getting nearer, he called the stable boy to see if there was some rich merchant or temple official visiting. Only to be informed; 'young Master, it is your brother. He has come back home. Back from the dead, your father called it.'
'Has he brought an army of workers? Or a caravan filled with silks and spices? Has he made his inheritance into a fortune?' The elder son asked. 'No,' replied the stable boy. 'All he had was what he stood in.'
The elder son's appetite curdled and his face turned to stone. He turned and sat against the shadowed side of the tall tower; staring at his clenched fists. The stable boy ran to tell the father who came out immediately.
'After all that I have done..' Tears of frustration came with the accusation. 'After all that I have done, trying to please you. And you celebrate with him.Him who wasted everything you gave him. Who came back with nothing!'
'Adam,' the father said. 'You have worked hard, I am proud of you and I love you. Why do you think you had to please me? I would have shared in the work, I would have welcomed your friends; I would have sat with you in the shade at the end of the day. But you would not let me near. You have driven yourself to this; it has been all about you. Do you see that all you do for me, you have done for yourself - for your inheritance?
Your brother knew that this was not all there is. He had the dream of a new life; he took a chance. His share of my fortune is spread among people you and I won't ever know. He has changed lives we will never meet.Who knows what that money, that mouldered in the treasury, has accomplished in that land.
My son, he has given even himself away - and dragged himself home - just skin and bone. He is my everything - just as you are. And now, if you could see him, you would see how happy he is to be home - how happy I am to hold him again.
How happy you should be that your brother is truly alive.'