While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. (Luke 15:20)
On Mothering Sunday it may seem odd to us that we have a Gospel reading which so clearly speaks of family life, yet which mentions only the men, the Father and his two sons.
The situation is very familiar in one way or another to many families. It speaks of faithfulness and impetuosity, of indulgence and jealousy, of affection for the wayward one, and the anger of the one who feels taken for granted. What family has not known some of these feelings and situations?
Yet as we look at the story - especially today - we might just wonder about the mother. How did she feel about the son who took his money and wasted it all? Did she long for his return, or sympathise with her older son in his bitterness? Or did she just dutifully toil in the kitchen, cooking the fatted calf?
We shouldn’t ask too many of these kind of questions, because if we do, we are in danger of missing the point. This all-too-human family is far more. For we are the sons, both wayward like the younger son and bitter like the elder, sinful and self-righteous. And the Father ... is of course the Father. God himself. Loving, forgiving, yearning to welcome us back to him, when we are ready.
And the great painter Rembrandt had a deep insight when he painted the tender scene of the welcome of the prodigal, for the Father’s hands which embrace the returning son are one large muscular and rough, the other lighter, nimbler and smooth, a male hand and then a female hand, in a loving and welcome embrace.
God is both Mother and Father, indulgent, loving and waiting, ready and waiting, for our sorrow and our repentance. Longing to welcome us to the celebration of our forgiveness.