There will be rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner.
The message of God’s forgiveness is one that we are familiar with, but which the Lord still wishes to emphasise. Our human approach to forgiveness is so often flawed – we hold grudges, erect barriers, make demands and establish conditions. Jesus wants to remind his listeners – and us – that God’s forgiveness is overflowing and bountiful. Saint Paul was well aware of this: he had persecuted the Church, calling himself “the greatest of sinners”; and yet, thanks to the “inexhaustible patience” of God, he can count himself a believer. We must be open to the gift of forgiveness for ourselves, and also (as the Parable of the Elder Brother shows) open to that forgiveness offered to other whom we would condemn.