Reading: Chapter 3–The Challenge; Chapter 4–The Cost. (p. 51 to p. 90)
The original love is the original blessing.
The original love is the original acceptance.
Long before we talk about original sin or original rejection
we should speak of God’s original love.
– Henri Nouwen, (p. 57)
What a wonderful first week of insightful and thought-provoking comments from so many of you! I have been deeply touched by your reflections. Your comments strengthen my conviction that Following Jesus is a superb addition to the Nouwen canon Thanks to all of you joining us on our Advent journey—those sharing their thoughts and comments and those reading and reflecting silently.
Last week we heard Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” and we chose to answer his call to “come follow me.” Those are important first steps on our spiritual journey—necessary, but not sufficient. In essence, we focused on who we follow (Jesus). This week we realize that to move forward when following Jesus we must accept the challenge to live a Christian life of love. We must also be willing to pay the cost through our compassionate suffering, but knowing that we are not suffering alone. So, this week we focus on how we follow Jesus. Henri gently guides us to “love your enemies” through acts of forgiveness and service and to “take up your cross” by connecting our suffering to the suffering of Jesus. This and so much more is awaiting your discovery in our reading this week.
Here are some questions that might prompt your thinking as you reflect on the reading. As always, the questions are merely suggestions. Please share whatever touched your heart and mind from the reading. You are also welcome to share your reflections and insights prompted by the comments of others, as you did so wonderfully last week.
1. In chapter 3 Henri says, “Jesus came to reveal to us the first love. The original love. We are called by Jesus to come in touch with that first love.” (p. 56) In the next paragraph Henri further describes the first love. He then writes, “The whole spiritual life is a life where we come in touch with that first love.”
- Before describing the first love, Henri discusses our woundedness. What is your response to Henri’s understanding of our woundedness? Have you seen this in yourself or in others?
- What is your understanding of the first love as described by Henri? How do you experience the first love in your life?
- How does the first love relate to worldly love in our society? In your life?
2. In chapter 4 we read, “God came to invite us to connect our burden with God’s burden, to connect our suffering with God’s suffering, to connect our pain with God’s pain. . . Compassion means not only that God suffers with us but that now we are invited to suffer with God.” (p. 80) Henri then describes several great saints that spoke about their suffering as a participation in God’s suffering and how, as a result, their difficult suffering becomes something new.
- How does Henri’s description of suffering better help you understand the suffering in our world?
- What do you think about Henri’s idea to start focusing on our small problems when we are considering what it means to suffer in our lives?
- What is your response to Henri’s description how to link our suffering and our prayer? (p. 83-85).
3. Finally, as we asked last week, do the issues Henri brings up connect with your own experience? If so, how? You might want to share the insights you have gained, the questions that arose, or how your life might change your life as a result.
May we have another fruitful week of Following Jesus.
Peace and all good.