He was telling me the story about the prodigal son. He did not tell me the story, of course. He knew that I was no stranger to it. He told me what had happened to him when he was meditating on it during a retreat. He had to change his life, if only to be able to continue it.
While meditating on that story he had used an etching Rembrandt once made of it, with the father embracing his lost and found son. He told me that he really felt like the younger son. Suddenly the drawing took a new meaning. All at once he understood and felt that God forgave him. More important, God still loved him in a very real way.
At that point he jumped up. When I asked him what hit him, he answered that he had just then discovered something else, something he hadn't even thought of during his retreat. He suddenly understood, he told me, that not only did the father forgive his son, but the son at that same moment forgave himself. At that very moment the son must have accepted his shadow side, deciding to do something about it, but nevertheless loving himself as the father loved him.
While he said this, tears were streaming down his face. I didn't know what to do. I offered him a cup of coffee. He did not need that, he said. Before he left we prayed together. We never forgot that evening. That evening he did what is probably the most difficult thing any of us can do. It is difficult to forgive others; it is much more difficult to forgive oneself. It is one of the greatest healing gifts we can receive!
[Source: Bulletin of March 14, 2010, St. Paul's Cathedral Parish, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.]