Some fiction for your Friday...
Yes, well. Of course you know the story, the story of my younger brother, in which I play the foil's part. Advanced inheritance; dissolution: wine, women, gambling, banquets, all the usual; money exhausted; the dramatic return; and his father's -- our father's -- joyful forgiveness. It's not a story, I realize, in which I come off well. I assure you I'm at least self aware enough to know that. I'm not here to make excuses. The grand emotional appeals have always been my brother's forte anyway. And at this remove, however much I may see myself as the hero of my own story, I know that it is my brother who holds a special appeal to people.
He, of course, is telling no stories now. He is in that eternal moment which needs no telling and is untellable. While I, always ahead and so always behind, am here to talk to you.
You will be thinking, by now, that I am "just" a fictional character. That would, I sometimes think in my still unperfected state, have been a comfort. Then I would have been "the elder son" and nothing more. But no. I am as real as any other invention of the divine mind. And so, naturally, my brother and I were followers of the Savior. Yes, me too. I could always be relied on to keep the accounts and purchase food to be distributed to the widows and orphans, to re-read the letters of the Apostles to the children or the catechumens and offer up my own -- perhaps over-smug -- thoughts on them. I was a linchpin, invaluable for my organizational skills, if I may so confess. And my brother. Well, he stole the money from the charitable purse -- no, not for the reason I've let you think, for a satisfying moment, by saying that. He stole the money and gave it all away at once. My weekly distributions were so orderly, but he gave it all away. I, on the other hand, worried about how we'd find the money to feed the widows the next week.
I clung to system and sense and frowned on those who were swept away by their feelings about the Savior -- in part because I have seldom been blessed with any such feelings myself. I could fast and give away my possessions with the best of them, but unlike the best of them I did so because I thought it was the right thing, not because I believed it was.
Thinking. Calculating. Reasoning. These were the things I was comfortable with. And the regularity of discipline. When the persecutions came, under Nero, I organized our community. I planned a new meeting place each week, secret passwords, people were not to go about in groups, no strangers to be admitted. I was determined not to lose a single one of those entrusted to my care. And my brother. He had a different determination. He was determined to preach the faith to the legionaries.
Well. That worked out. And if there's any single thing I can be proud of it's that when dragged before the governor I did not deny the Savior. Though I soiled myself while remaining silent. And bit my tongue quite viciously.
My brother prayed for our persecutors as we hung there. I cursed them, and shouted that the Romans had no business in Judea, that we were a free people and would always be such even if only in the freedom of death. His grand gesture was more in keeping with our maker than was mine. I'm sure that when he saw The Presence, he rushed forward, impulsive and childish as he always was. I held back, not turning away from that I longed for, but too proud to rush forward when I could have wished that someone, at last, would rush to me and say, "Welcome back, my favorite son."
And so here, neither coming nor going, I stay. Waiting. Trying to bend my will I thought so well-formed so that it will conform to the One which it loves imperfectly.
Perhaps, if you find time -- I can't say that I'm the most exciting project, I understand that there are far more who hold out hope for Judas or for Nero than for me, if only because so few know that I am something other than "a parable" -- dispatch a prayer or two for me. That some day I can overcome my wish that He would recognize how hard I've worked in my stolid way for him, and instead rush forward myself as my brother did so long ago and say, "Father, I have sinned."
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