And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore his father came out, and entreated him.
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Cornelius a Lapide
And he was angry, and would not go in. The anger and the murmuring of the elder son is the application of the parable, and is intended to show how justly God rejoices over the conversion of a sinner, and what answer can be given to those who murmur at the consideration shown to those that repent.
"Hence we learn," says Euthymius, "that God rejoices so greatly over the return of the prodigal, in order that He may provoke others to jealousy."
So also Theophylact, Titus , and S. Chrysostom in the Catena; for it is certain that the righteous do not envy penitent sinners the blessings they enjoy, but rejoice greatly and exalt in their happiness. See S. Matthew 20:2.
Hence we are to understand rather by the murmuring of the elder Song of Solomon , the envy of the Pharisees who murmured against Christ because He received sinners. For this was the occasion as well as scope of the parable, as is clear from the opening verses of the chapter. Similarly also the parable applies to the Jews, who hated the Apostles and murmured against them, because they preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. So S. Ambrose says, "The Jews envied the Gentiles the paternal blessing," and S. Augustine (Qust. Evang. ii33), "He is angry now, and will not go in. But when the fulness of the nations shall have entered in, then the father will go forth that all Israel may be saved." Again S. Ambrose, "He is called the elder because he envied his brother, and envy causes a man very quickly to grow old."
He heard music and dancing. That Isaiah , as S. Augustine explains, "He heard the Apostles full of the Holy Spirit preaching the Gospel with harmonious voices. He takes one of the prophets to read, and as he searches in it, asks in a manner, why are these feasts celebrated in the Church at which he finds himself not present." But S. Ambrose says, "He heard the harmony of the Christian people singing with united voice, and raising sweet sounding strains of joy over the salvation of the sinner. But he stands without, for his evil disposition hinders him from entering in;" and the Gloss, "The Church"s symphony is the accord of different ages and varying virtues, whence the chorus and spiritual dance of holy and exultant joy."
Tropologically, S. Jerome (Epist146) says, "Daily is this feast kept, daily does the Father receive His Song of Solomon , for Christ is ever being crucified for them that believe." See also Salmeron (Tom. vii. Tract27,28).
Therefore came his father out and intreated him.—Symbolically, this signifies that God through the preaching of Christ and His Apostles invited the Pharisees and the unbelieving Jews to enter His Church, and therein to partake of the gospel feast, and share in the joy of the faithful. But they refused the invitation from hatred of Christ crucified, and because they were offended that the Gentiles should believe on Him, and they will remain obstinate in their refusal until the coming of Elias at the end of the world. So S. Augustine bids us "admire God"s goodness towards His people;" and S. Jerome, "How kind and how merciful a father! He asks his son to share in the joy of the household."