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. With all the good qualities we might associate with mothers and fathers: Judging, Guiding, Loving, forgiving, yearning to welcome us back to him, watching that he might spy us from afar, beginning the long road back. And ready to celebrate our return.
Not only do we keep Mothering Sunday this weekend, but in the coming week, beginning on Tuesday, the Cardinals in Rome will be choosing our new Holy Father. There is much speculation, much opinionating, much expectation, and much hope.
More than all else, of course it must be a time of prayer.
And it is also a good moment to remind ourself what makes the Pope not just Holy, but also a Holy Father. Like the Father in the Gospel, He will look upon us while we are still a long way off, and guide us home. He will bring forgiveness, and celebration. He will be our teacher, and guide. He will show to us the Father's love, within the family of God's people.
He will remind us, that God is both Mother and Father, judging yet forgiving, encouraging, yet indulging, loving and waiting, ready for our sorrow and our repentance which is at the heart of this season of Lent. And Leading us, together, in the one Body of Christ, to the celebration of the Victory of Easter.