The-Prodigal-SonI didn’t fully appreciate the parable of the prodigal son until I became a parent.  The image of the father waiting at the end of the road for his long-gone son – the son who insulted him and abused his privileges and then came crawling back – was wonderful to use as a metaphor for God, and that was my understanding of the parable, that God would be waiting when we came back to him.  This was very comforting to me at a time when I had been away for a while, doing things I shouldn’t have been doing.

Then I became a parent myself, and I realized that the prodigal son couldn’t hold a candle to the merciful father.  There stands a man whose baby has gone away.  All he wants is for his son to come back, the son he cuddled in infancy, rough-housed in boyhood, trained in older years.  Having once been a wild young man himself, he’s not insulted by his son’s need to “sow his seeds” and learn from his mistakes; he’s saddened to see his son go away.

Then, one day, word arrives that his son, the one he thought he would never see again and who might have been dead for all he knew, is coming back!  Imagine his elation!  It would be like finding out that your worst fears were bunk and your highest hopes coming true.  His reaction, in light of this, is completely in line — only the finest for the son who has been away from home.

This must be my glimpse into God’s love for me.  We can do some very terrible things, things that damage our souls and fracture our relationships with the people around us, and God is there at the end of the driveway, waiting for us.  He offers us complete absolution and healing for our soul with the therapy of the confessional, where we get forgiveness right from the top and helpful advice on living our life closer to God.  Confession isn’t chastisement; it’s God at the end of the driveway saying “come, my son, my daughter, come closer to me; let me hold you close to me and walk home with you.”

At Betania, Mary gave herself the title Reconciler of People and Nations.  In my mind, that makes her The One at Before the End of the Driveway.  She’s the one who tells Father we’re coming.  She’s the one who urges us on, encourages us to keep going, assures us of His elation to have us arrive.

Read the rest in my column on Our Lady of Betania this week at Today’s Catholic Woman.