Where Do You Fit In the Story?
Ron Rolheiser suggests the story of the Prodigal Son is an “archetype story.” In other words, we can see ourselves in the story in different ways: we are the younger son at one time in our lives, then the older son at another time in our lives and hopefully the father at another time in our lives. I found this view particularly enlightening.
When asked to enter into the story as one of the characters, most people enter the story as the older brother. My mother used to regularly quote me this story siding with the older brother, “That is not fair to get a party to welcome the younger brother home when he squandered all his inheritance.” We always had great discussions on it.
Rolheiser maintains that when we are younger in years we tend to exert our own will and do whatever we want, sometimes even squandering all that we have inherited from our parents’ wisdom. Often times that adventure leaves us stranded in life’s muck and we are unhappy with where it takes us. Most often, but not always, we come to our senses and return to a less wild way of life and settle down with values that make sense to us, with most (but not all) finding their way back to God and the Church.
Other times we take on the role of the older son who becomes embittered with life’s lost opportunities. We are older and have many regrets in life, most around things we did not try or did not do at all. We regret so much and get into the habit of doing the ordinary duties of life and not taking the time to enjoy our lives.
The father wants both the younger and the older brother at the party of life. He wants them both to enjoy life with him.
So how do we find out where we are and what we need to do to enjoy life? This requires a process of prayer and reflection. We can start by asking ourselves: Am I the younger brother? Or the older brother? Or the father?