Once there was a son, Jesus said, who treated his family badly and despised them and left home; it looked like he never meant to come back. He fell on hard times and realized he had been an idiot and a jerk, and that his best course of action was to go back home and beg his father for forgiveness. His father was beyond relieved - he was glad. He had always wished his son good and not harm. He celebrated his son's return.
I've seen it a few times in real life now: the child who does not value his family and leaves home in a bad way. I have seen the hurt on the parents' faces, heard the anguish in their voices. But there's always one more thing: hope. They heard Jesus tell the same story, and they know how it ends. They look forward to that day when things are right again. They're ready to play their part. They've made sure their child has heard the story too, and that the child knows how it ends. The child knows what kind of welcome he can expect from parents who follow Jesus. And the day comes when the child is ready to come back home. And the reconciliation is following a script that Jesus laid out for us all. He made us expect that the prodigal comes back, and that the parent receives with open arms.
How many families throughout the centuries have been reconciled because Jesus told that parable?