I hate to admit it, but there is definitely some resemblance between me and the older son in today’s infamous “Prodigal Son” Gospel.
Have you ever found yourself questioning or getting resentful over doing the right things in faith, and yet not being blessed in the same way as others? Feeling like you got the short end of the stick instead? I definitely feel this way from time to time.
In fact, just yesterday, after being appointed to another ministry role (my 6th), I had some resentments about it. I thought: God gives me more work, but not the desires of my heart for a family which He gives others. Why is that? You could say I sounded a bit like that older son.
Are you like me? It’s hard when the faithful just keep getting piled on with more work for the Kingdom, while everyone else seemingly gets to bask in their fulfilled desires of family, friends, riches, travel, hobbies, and so forth. It’s hard watching so many do absolutely nothing for the Kingdom, while the few that do just keep getting piled on.
Somehow we mistakenly think that faithfulness earns us rewards on earth, especially when we see prodigals who wind up with bigger blessings than us and we’re busy being faithful worker-bee disciples. God’s unconditional grace towards anyone and everyone doesn’t make sense in a world that is caught up in merit and earning rewards. We think we should be getting those rewards.
When I fall prey to this kind of older son thinking, it helps to remind myself that I am a prodigal too in some ways, and God’s mercy and grace have blessed me too. I may stray in less big ways, but I still sin and stray in smaller ways.
It also helps to remind myself that I too am blessed and I too receive some rewards - perhaps those unseen by the rest of the world like greater closeness to God, peace in my soul of knowing I’m on the path to heaven, and fulfillment of serving others.
There's also the exercise of thinking of people you admire most. I heard this on a recent talk: generally, the people we admire most in life are the people who led self-sacrificing lives like grandmothers, saints and Mother Teresa. In the end, do we really admire the prodigals who got materially blessed and graced without any real faithfulness or the people that stayed faithful through thick and thin? Most of us would probably say no.
And lastly, maybe I need to see my appointment more in light of the second reading today, “Christ Jesus our Lord considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.” Perhaps that work He gives me is because I’m a trusted servant.
Today I hear God ask me that question: which would you rather be -- the blessed prodigal or the trusted servant? Knowing deep within, I am both: mercifully treated, compassionately loved, blessed with grace, and trusted to carrying on His work.