Today's gospel is the famous prodigal son. For as simple as the story appears, it can challenge our most basic sense of forgiveness.
The Sacrament of Penance has four stages: contrition, confession, penance, and absolution. The starting point is contrition, but what motivates that contrition? For the prodigal son, the motivation was hunger. He was starving.
One might look back, as we so often do, and question the sincerity of his contrition. How often do we see some person say they are sorry, only to hear some wag say, "O Yeah, he's sorry he got caught."
If we follow the parable of the prodigal son, we don't care about the motivation for the contrition. The Father only cares that he is back. As for the sincerity of the contrition, who of us can say? Which of us can see inside another's heart? Is there a scale for sincerity? If so, what score is need for the contrition to be deemed real enough for forgiveness?
Perhaps we would be better served if each time we find ourselves about to make that judgement of another, we turn inward, look at our own heart, the only heart we can even come close to knowing. And as we approach the halfway point in the season of Lent, think about approaching the Sacrament of Penance ourselves.