To err is human, to forgive divine. After a wrong is done, the sense of wrongdoing has to come. With this realisation, comes the desire to change, to make amends for the harm done. To repent is therefore the first step towards seeking divine grace. And when the wrongdoer is ready to forgive the wrongs done to him by others, he has taken the fil step. He is now worthy of God’s mercy, to be forgiven.
So how does God respond? Jesus Christ told the parable of The Lost Sheep to show how God rejoices when He finds the one who was lost:
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The story should end happily here. But not for the righteous. A question now troubles them. They had stayed on the right path. Yet God rejoices more on finding those who had strayed, who were themselves to blame for being lost. Where is His justice in all this?
And Christ answered with another parable, the parable of The Prodigal Son:
“There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
“And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.’
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’
“But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’
“And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
So like the lost sheep, the son gone astray had found his way back to the fold. He was relieved, and happy too. And his father was rejoicing. He had seen at once that this son was ashamed of his past ways and repenting. The father’s compassion flowed.
But it was now the other son’s turn to learn a lesson. It was good he had remained loyal to his father. He had wisely kept to the right path. And was he not the better off for that? Yet for all his ‘nearness’ to his father, he had not appreciated the prime quality which made his father what he was. It was his capacity to love, and therefore to forgive.
Thus it was that Christ the Son taught about the infinite love and mercy of God the Father. Those who stray from the Kingdom of Heaven will be taken back, if they repent and forgive others as lost as they are. And those who stay on must be thankful and not proud. They need to keep their hearts open to God’s infinite compassion, so that they too may share his joy at the return of the prodigal.
— the harbinger