Reading: Rembrandt and the Younger Son; The Younger Son Leaves; The Younger Son’s Return (p. 25 t0 58)
Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied him. Both were lost children. . . .
Judas chose death. Peter chose life. I realize
this decision is always before me. (p.50)
Thanks to each of you for a wonderful first week of sharing. It’s a blessing, a joy, and a privilege to read the many thoughtful and deeply personal comments. For some of you in our Lenten community this is your first encounter with Henri Nouwen and The Return of the Prodigal Son. Others of you are returning to this classic after some years. Bringing together participants with these diverse perspectives enriches the discussion and enhances our understanding of this great parable.
This week we focus our attention on the title character in the story–the Prodigal Son, or as Henri calls him, The Younger Son. There is so much that we can reflect on in this rich and spiritually powerful work. Nouwen first considers how this painting may convey aspects of Rembrandt’s personal story. He then looks at the two major phases in this narrative–the younger son’s leaving to a distant land and then the younger son’s return home. Henri relates these phases to his own spiritual journey. Finally, Henri introduces idea that the parable of the prodigal son may be presenting a reality far beyond its surface meeting of a returning son and a forgiving Father. You are invited to reflect on the reading for this week and share your thoughts, comments, and reaction to Henri’s description and portrayal of the younger son. Are there times when you were the prodigal son or daughter? What is you response to Henri’s words? Share to the extent you are comfortable.
You might also consider replying to one or more of the following questions.
Consider the quotation at the top of this post about how Judas and Peter were both lost children at the time of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. How does Henri’s parable of the prodigal son influence your understanding or of how Judas and Peter were both similar and different simultaneously?
(A)s a young man, Rembrandt had all the characteristics of the prodigal son: brash, self-confident, spendthrift, sensual and very arrogant. (p.30) . . . As I look at the prodigal son kneeling before he father. . . I cannot but see there the . . . venerated artist who has come to the painful realization that all the glory he had gathered for himself proved to be vain glory. (p. 33) Henri shows us that Rembrandt’s spiritual journey can be seen through his art. Nouwen, too, went through a difficult spiritual journey that led to this book. How might this reflection by Henri relate to his life, as you understand it? More important, have you experienced similar changes on your own spiritual journey?
Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests” (p. 37) . . . I leave home every time I lose faith in the voice that calls me the Beloved and follow the voices that offer a great variety of ways to win the love I so much desire. (p.40) . . . I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. (p. 43) What do you think about Henri’s definition of home and what it means to leave home? What does it mean for you to leave home?
(The) younger son realizes that he has lost the dignity of his sonship, but at the same time that sense of lost dignity makes him aware that he is indeed the son who had dignity to lose. The younger son’s return takes place in the very moment that he reclaims his sonship, even though his has lost all the dignity that belongs to it. (p. 49) Have you ever experienced a similar situation where you felt you had lost the dignity of your sonship or daughtership? Please share your feelings to the extent you are comfortable.
The Beatitudes “present a portrait of the child of God. It is a self portrait of Jesus, the Beloved Son. It is also a portrait of me as I must be. The Beatitudes offer me the simplest route for the journey home, back into the house of my Father.” (p.54) What is your reaction to Henri’s idea that the Beatitudes offer the simplest route to return home.
Seeing Jesus himself as the prodigal son goes far beyond the traditional interpretation of the parable. Nonetheless, this vision holds a great secret. . . . (T)he “return” of the prodigal becomes the return of the Son of God who has drawn all people into himself and brings them home to his heavenly Father. (p. 56) What are your thoughts on this non-traditional interpretation of the parable. Does it give you greater insight into the parable? ‘
Thank you again for joining our Lenten journey. There is lots to discuss this week Let’s get started.
Peace and all good.