"So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20b).
He got up "from the wreckage of his conscience and body alike. He arose from the depths of hell and touched the heights of heaven. Before the heavenly Father, a child rises higher because of pardon than he fell low because of guilt" (St. Peter Chrysologus, from Magificat). It is important to note that in order to see the wreckage we must have a reckoning, a realization of what we have wrought, which is what makes us see that we need forgiveness. Without such a reckoning, which is also a grace, we are either faking it or looking for what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace," which I will define here as forgiveness without a reckoning. Now, it is certainly true that in and through Christ we are always already forgiven, but in order to really grasp what that means in order for it to be life-changing, in order to repent (i.e., change), we must come to the realization of just how deep and wide is God's love for us. God's unfailing love and forgiveness is our cause for rejoicing today. We, too, are prodigal sons and daughters who were once lost and have been found. We are the lost sheep sought out and found by the Good Shepherd.