Luke, reportedly a physician, a healer, weaves the wonderful story of the prodigal son. The son was prodigal in that he wasted his lavish inheritance on a life of dissipation. In this sense, Augustine and Merton, who both led lives of dissipation before turning to God, were prodigals. Returning to God they were lavishly welcomed. The reading from Micah tells us that God will throw away our sins.
Several years ago, reflecting on this grace-filled story, I said it was really a story about the prodigal father. The father was indeed prodigal in this sense. He was lavish in giving when the son returned.
Rembrandt’s magnificent painting of The “Return of the Prodigal” shows the son kneeling before the father. The older brother is off in a cornier fuming over the lavish welcome the father has bestowed on the son. He is like Jonah. He got really ticked off when his brother repented. Look at the painting carefully and you will see two different hands on the son’s shoulders. One hand is bigger and firmer and masculine. The other is smaller and more feminine. Rembrandt got the idea of God as Father and Mother. God is a Prodigal Mother.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is the Mother Goddess representing the fullness of the Divine Motherhood. Patriarchy cannot contain her. I have visited Knock in Ireland where Mary appeared to the townspeople in a time of great hardship again showing her compassion toward the down and out and oppressed. The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego when Juan and his people were in the throes of having themselves and their culture and their heritage destroyed by the conquistadors. The Virgin lifted up the oppressed campesino and addressed him, “My dignified Juan.” Juan had worth and dignity as a human being. Once again Mary shows her motherhood by acting out of love, compassion, justice, and mercy. The Virgin wants to restore right order between conqueror and the conquered. Both have dignity. This is the beginning of the new creation in the western hemisphere when it was at its lowest historical moment.
The Virgin of Guadalupe restores dignity and hope to every person. Very few of us had perfect parents. Many may have suffered physical, verbal, and emotional abuse at the hands of parents who were doing the best they could. Many men suffer from what Richard Rohr calls “father hunger.” Their lives are in turmoil because they never had a warm emotional close relationship with their fathers. The Virgin soothes the pain and fills the hunger. She comes to us as our Mother Goddess to comfort and heal us as only a mother can.
I was in one of those half-awake dream states last night. The Virgin of Guadalupe came to me. She called me, “Dignified Pat.” She said, “I come to bring the mercy, compassion, and peace you have missed in your life.” I experienced a warm sense of healing and wholeness and peace—shalom (well being). I have new life in God now as my pilgrimage continues.
Wow! Blessed be God the Creator Father, the Virgin Mother and their Blessed Son! Blessed be our Prodigal God and the Virgin Goddess!