YESTERDAY was Father’s Day, which made me remember a story I told prisoners in a jail about another father. It so happened that a team invited me to visit a prison in Mumbai. What I saw that day in that prison was a sense of sadness. I had expected tough gangsters to be strutting around ready to pounce on me and hold me hostage, but instead, all over were men remorse written all over their faces.
“They are sad, because they are sorry for what they have done!” said one of the leaders of the group, “Their whole life has changed because of one act of madness, but more than anything else they feel they will never be forgiven for what they have done!” Like them there are many of us who commit dreadful acts in a fit of temper or moments of illogical thinking and find no forgiveness from friends, relatives!
That day in very simple Hindi, I narrated a story Jesus had told over 2000 years ago as an example of God’s forgiveness: A certain man had two sons. When the younger told his father, “I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!” his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son.”
But his father said to the slaves, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found!”
There was not a dry eye in that prison when I’d finished, as they suddenly knew that whatever crime they had committed, big, small or medium, could be forgiven, all they had to do was to look up and say, “Please take me back..!”