BEWARE OF THE ELDER BROTHER SYNDROME: REPENT | Saturday 2nd Week of Lent | Day 16

There are many Christians who feel so pious and perfect such that they don't admit personal weaknesses or wrongs but are quick to see the imperfections in others. They are quick to criticise and inflate others' wrongs, finding faults and drawing implications, see evil in almost everything but would not tolerate anyone associating them with even the slighted ill. If you find yourself in this condition the Lord calls you to repent because this is a sickness called the "Elder Brother's Syndrome" (EBS). If you wish to know more, read slowly...

C.f Luke 15:1-3,11-32

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery. ‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch...Then he came to his senses and said...I will leave this place and go to my father...So he left the place and went back to his father...‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.” ‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”

POINTS FOR REFLECTION

1. The biblical passage you just read are portions taken from the popular parable of the prodigal son- a parable that draws attention on the love of the father who waits patiently for his wayward son to come to his senses. This story has served a great source of encouragement to parents of wayward children as well as to those who have found themselves far from God. In explaining this parable many focus on the wayward son and the gravity of his actions, with little or nothing said about the elder son. But the important question remains: is this parable truly meant for those within the category of the wayward son, the father (guardian) or the elder son?
The answer to this question is seen clearly in the opening verses of the gospel passage of Luke 15:1-3:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Then Jesus told them this parable

Afterwards, Jesus tells them three parables: of the lost Sheep- of a sheep LOST OUTSIDE the fold; and of a lost coin- of a coin LOST INSIDE the house. These parables help explain the third- the prodigal son- telling us that the wayward son is like the sheep lost outside the fold and represents sinners who have lost their faith and are outside the church, while the elder son is like the coin lost inside the house, and thus represents Christians lost by sin of pride and perfectionism which the pharisees represents. 

2. This parable is directed to the ELDER SON who represents TWO categories of Christians: First category are those prideful Christians who seat at the front pews of churches day after day but with 'holier than thou' attitudes or living in hidden mortal sins. The second category are the fault-finder Christians who easily identify a reprobate sinner and readily recognise his need of God but fail to see the need of the prideful soul. Hence this parable is given as an antidote to the spiritual sickness called ELDER BROTHER SYNDROME which is a condition whereby we easily recognize in the reprobate sinner his need for God but fail to see the need of the proudful soul.

TASK: The mediating role of the father is exemplary for every Christian today- a role which Jesus play daily in our lives- neither condemning the sinner nor condoning our sins. The father in this parable not only addresses the need of the wayward son, he also addresses that of the elder son as well. Let us repent of attitudes of fault finding, pride and perfectionism, it does no good, and embrace a lifestyle open and loving to all.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks thanks for this piece Fr. The focus is always on the younger but many Christians are like the eldest. Mss as y God help us remove the log in our eyes before looking for the spec in another🙏

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