Reflecting back over life as a daughter, and my own experiences of family life as a parent, especially remembering the tougher times, the question arises, why did Our Lord choose to come to earth as a member of a family?
He could have come out of the desert, a man of mystery with antecedents unknown, but he didn’t, He came as a Son with a mother and a father. He ministered in places where he was known as part of that family. Why?
He clearly placed immense value on our human experience within the family. And it is well known and documented that strong and stable families have always been the bulwark of the Church, and the foundation of any strong and cohesive society.
We learn to love, we learn to give, and we learn to get along with others with whom we are not necessarily automatically compatible, in a family.
One of the insights you get as a parent is the incomprehensible, illogical nature of human love. You feel as though you would do almost anything to keep the love of your children; you will put up with just about anything, turn a blind eye to so much. And if you just can’t keep their love, if the relationship does break down between parent and child, the heartbreak, the suffering, the regret must be unbearable.
Being a parent also teaches us a great deal about the need for forgiveness. And Our Lord also placed an immense value on forgiveness.
Forgive not seven but seventy times seven times; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; Father forgive them, they know not what they do. The list goes on.
One of the best loved stories from the New Testament is the parable of the prodigal son, and it is a story told within the context of a family also. It hinges on the apparently limitless capacity for forgiveness of the father for his careless, erring son. The capacity for forgiveness in a loving parent for a beloved child is very deep; you will always look for the mitigating factor, the ray of hope, the sign that it was an accident. Even against all advice, all evidence to the contrary, a parent will keep believing the best of their children, maybe even after it is impossible for anyone else to keep believing it. Even if you know deep down they are not completely sorry, you don’t really care ultimately as long as the rift is somehow healed or patched over.
We simply cannot understand God’s way of thinking (for want of a better word). Our finite, clouded minds cannot comprehend the depth of God’s capacity for loving forgiveness of his constantly erring children, and his yearning for us to come back to Him. But perhaps we have the best inkling of it in our own feelings towards our children, as reflected in the story of the prodigal son.
It is impossible to go through Lent without contemplating the unpleasant reality of sin and its deleterious effects. But if there is sin, there is also the hope of forgiveness offered by our prodigally generous God, if we will but repent and accept it.