The Prodigal son story is not about “cheap grace” or simply “saying sorry”.
It is about the cost and damage done to self and others because of sin, the process of true repentance, and what God, while merciful and always willing to save, expects as the absolute minimum price for the restoration of relationship.
But then again maybe I am scandalised by the Father.
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
The father didn’t even wait for his son’s confession, but accepted him back even before his confessing. Why he was not afraid that he had come back only to take more advantage of him?
Is it cheap grace? I guess I would be scandalized too…
“The older brother knows nothing of the inner transformations and wanderings experienced by the younger brother, of his journey into distant parts, of his fall and his new self-discovery. He sees only injustice. And this betrays the fact that he too had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits, that his obedience has made him inwardly bitter, and that he has no awareness of the grace of being at home, of the true freedom that he enjoys as a son.
[The Pharisees’ and scribes’] bitterness toward God’s goodness reveals an inward bitterness regarding their own obedience, a bitterness that indicates the limitations of this obedience. In their heart of hearts, they would have gladly journeyed out into that great “freedom” as well. There is an unspoken envy of what others have been able to get away with.
They need to convert from the Law-God to the greater God, the God of love. This will not mean giving up their obedience, but rather this obedience will flow from deeper wellsprings and will therefore be bigger, more open, and purer, but above all more humble.”
— Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth pg 210-211
Painting: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Return of the Prodigal Son (1667-1670)