My favorite parable is the parable of the prodigal son. The little story seems to have endless nooks and crannies to explore. But it also triggers questions. And with Mother's Day on the horizon, I find myself asking, "How did the prodigal son's mother feel about it all?"

Well, I think I know her feelings.

She was worried sick, for one thing — from the day the boy left until he got home again. She never gave up hope. She went to bed each night and rose each morning with a prayer in her heart for his health and safety. But more than that, a prayer that he would someday see the light.

Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother probably "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Her husband was wise and strong. Her sons were capable and headstrong. But she knew the boy who set out into the world better than anyone else. She knew his tender nature would make him prey for wily jackals. She knew that God had set his seal upon the boy's heart, and that would make him confused in the world. If he fell in with gamblers, he'd lose. If he fell in with thieves, he'd be caught. Should he be enticed by worldly women, he'd end up with a broken heart.

And she knew the seal of God was on the boy's heart because she had set it there herself. When the young boy would pray — in that sweet, sing-song style of children's prayers — she'd pick him up, kiss him and tell him how much he meant to her. When he'd growl at his brothers or disobey his father, she'd remind him he was better than that. And when he felt sad and wounded, she'd comfort him, then teach him to turn to God for comfort, knowing she would not always be there for him.

After the boy left, she went about her daily life — organizing her household, helping at the synagogue, making sure she had a smile for her husband and her other children — but carrying a little song of longing in her heart, and a fervent hope the lessons she'd taught her son would surface.

Meanwhile, when the boy failed in his worldly pursuits, he was shocked.

Not so his mother.

When he tried to find solace through alcohol, through music and worldly counselors — he was amazed that none of it helped.

Not so his mother.

And when he "came to himself," as the scripture says, and knew the illness he suffered was "homesickness," that he must return to the life and ways he'd been taught as a boy — the thought struck him like a revelation.

But not so his mother.

And so when the boy's father saw him coming up the path, he ran to embrace him — like Peter swimming ashore to greet The Master. But her nature was to wait in the doorway, offering a tearful prayer of gratitude and relief. She had mastered the virtue of patience. So she waited there for him to come to her, as he always had.

And how do I know all this?

I know because my mother was the mother of a prodigal son. Sadly, she passed away before she saw my return. Still, there are those in my life who say the reason I returned at all is because my mother finally got to heaven, where God let her lead down the pathway home.


E-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com