lent 4 — father, son, and brother

The Departure of the Prodigal Son, Murillo

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons.

• Luke 15:11

father, son, and brother
so the story goes
and every time i hear it
i think i know my role

my father soft of heart
and willing to let me go
to pay my fare when i so full
of lust to sow some oats
to laugh, to spend long sleepless nights
’round campfires on the beach
in smoky haze with sun-bronzed skin
and tangled hair and endless time
long may you run…

and all the while my steadfast sibling
up at dawn and coffee made
and out the door and rolled up sleeves
and full of vim; grindstone turning, nose in place
sure, dad counts on him, trusts in him,
relies on him, and lets him run the show
god knows, he tells dad, that other useless son of yours
never did his part; i’ll make up for that stupid s.o.b.!

dad has some sad thing going on behind his eyes
i could hear it on those rare occasions when i called
but that was before i’d had enough
and knew i must go home
and there he was, mad with hugs and kisses, tears,
running down the lane embarrassing himself
and shamefaced me suddenly thrust to the head table

so, that’s me i think when someone says
“a father had two sons…”
i know my role, i know my place in the story
at least i always have, but i am older now
and i have also felt those same tears swelling up
and i have felt that same resentment toward my flesh and blood
and now i wonder if we’re all that different in the end
father, son, and brother
just trying to figure out how to be loved and to love

7 thoughts on “lent 4 — father, son, and brother

  1. Yes! The section on the father was a revelation to me when I first read it!

    I’m going through a study in Isaiah right now and some of the chapters in the early 40s make it abundantly clear: God tells us (through the prophet), “I’m the initiator, and I’m loving and merciful, yet you keep screwing up. Oh, did I tell you already that I’m the initiator, and I’m loving and merciful, even though you keep screwing up?”

    The other thing that has become abundantly clear: God is life-giver, not life-destroyer. I think Jesus is evidence of that. And it gets back to Nouwen’s words which you quoted. “I am the son of my compassionate Father.” It’s a call to be a life-giver, not a life-destroyer.


  2. “Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’ God’s compassion is described by Jesus not simply to show me how willing God is to feel for me, or to forgive my sins and offer me new life and happiness, but to invite me to become like God and to show the same compassion to others as he is showing me…What I am called to make true is that whether I am the younger or the elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father.”

    (Henri Nouwen)


  3. If you’ve never read Henri Nouwen’t “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” I HIGHLY recommend it. He describes how we can be ALL THREE figures depending on our state of mind/heart.


  4. ” . . . now i wonder if we’re all that different in the end
    father, son, and brother
    just trying to figure out how to be loved and to love”

    thought-provoking words, Chaplain Mike, and the first two comments are also worthy of pondering

    oh how the parables hold up a mirror for us, and we cannot look away easily either

    good Lenten writing, Chaplain, thank you


  5. My role was always the elder brother. Still is, I guess. Dutiful, devoted, and feeling sorry for myself. Psalm 73 is my go-to Scripture.


  6. Ain’t it the truth. While we typically identify with the wayward son due to our waywardness, we are each of them at different times. Sometimes the magnanimous and forgiving, sometimes the petty and short sighted.


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