We all know the special role parents play in a child’s life. All you have to do is bring your child to school to know that you are not alone in your parenting journey. Conversations with other parents will soon confirm that most parents are on a learning curve. Even the so called “experienced parents” comment that they don’t have all the answers. However, you can be sure that at some point during a conversation two important words will be mentioned: “At home…” There is no place more important to a child than the home they share with their parents and siblings. It’s not the size or material comforts that the home provides, it’s the nurturing and supporting environment that really matter. I recall how the family home I grew up in lost it’s warmth when my mum moved to a retirement village. When I first visited my mum in her new apartment it instantly felt like home, because that was where her nurturing and loving presence was.
During His years of ministry, Jesus made use of parables as a gentle, yet thought provoking way of teaching people. One of the best known parables we heard as part of last week’s Gospel is the Prodigal Son, which is often used to illustrate God’s loving care and willingness to forgive. Nowadays, it could very well be the parable of most relevance to modern day parents, for it is the parable of great hope. In the parable we find a parents broken-hearted to see a child take what he owns and leave home to pursue a lifestyle that is quite opposite to that of his family and having all the signs of leading to disaster and self-destruction. Even though there was a great disappointment, the parent never gives up hope for the child and is ready daily to accept the child back into the loving care of the family. When the child did reach ‘rock bottom’ and all seemed spoilt and lost, the thought of home was the sole ray of light in an otherwise dark future.
The father rejoicing at his son’s return would have seemed a ridiculous folly. Because of his actions, the son completely shamed himself and his father. The father’s expected and justified response would have been to turn his back on his son and banish him forever. To welcome him back would have been unthinkable to Jesus’ audience. In an echo of God’s ridiculous and unbounded loving forgiveness, the father welcomes his son with open arms and reclaims his as his own.
Events, which occur between a parent and children, need not be as dramatic as the parable. However events do happen quite frequently on a smaller scale and differences can be aired quite strongly, especially as our children get older. On some occasions, it can be helpful to be selectively deaf or blind and very helpful to have a resilient sense of humour. Sometimes, we might have to accept what our children have to offer us, take it on board and gently reshape it with their assistance so that the outcome is a positive experience for both parties.
Parenthood brings many challenges yet great joy and reward.