Who Do We Want to Be?
Experience is a stronger persuader than argument, and we act well to the degree that we see clearly. The parable (better called the parable of the two brothers) has an obvious moral point. Given the two brothers’ personalities, which seems closer to the father? They are in fact equidistant. The prodigal brother can’t understand the nature of the father’s expansive love. The older, killjoy brother is entirely lacking in the generosity that characterizes his father. They are the two faces of the ego in all of us: the one part that wants to run after pleasure and the other that likes to take the moral high ground and feel justified in condemnation. Without knowledge of the essential truth of the joy of being and the unconditional nature of love, the ego will prevail. Each time we meditate, we are like the prodigal returning home to be embraced and also like the older brother learning that being good is more than doing good. Lent is a time when, by simplifying selected aspects of our lives and strengthening our discipline where it is weak, we can see ourselves in each of these three characters and decide—is it so difficult?—which one we want to be.