Mar 8th to Mar 14th: 2nd Week of Lent – The Younger Son

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.
Ray

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42 Responses to Mar 8th to Mar 14th: 2nd Week of Lent – The Younger Son

  1. Linda MacDonald says:

    It is already March 15, but I am posting here for the week just past. And what a week for the world as well as individually. I was especially touched by the closing pages of the chapter “The Younger Son’s Return”, particularly the long quoted passage from Friere Pierre Marie of the Fraternity of Jerusalem. For the life of me I could not recall this passage at all as I read it again as for the first time. “I am thirsty”. How that resonates, especially considering the Good Friday liturgy. So this suggestion for reflection was particularly powerful:

    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? ‘

    Life has always been considered an individual matter, no matter where you live in the world of ‘men’. And yet the life of the Spirit continually calls the prodigal individual into a greater being for the other and in being for the other you will be inevitably on your own side and the side of God. Of course there are no sides at all in this circle God created from the beginning. The whole idea of Jesus as Prodigal astounds the heart with a reality of the good news which lasts forever and is for all people regardless of your own relationship to them or theirs to you. I also sense how this particular parable seen in light of Jesus as Prodigal drives us all the way back to the time just before the temptation to be in control of good and evil overcame the promise we had been called into and therefore changed the way we humans have come to operate in the world God has made. Reflecting on the Covid-19 pandemic and how various nations are responding, how individuals in the United States, driven wild by fear and anxiety, are rushing into stores and grabbing all they can hold in their shopping carts. My prayer is that at some point, sooner rather than later, although that is not up to me, we will come to our senses and remember who we are as well as whose we are.

  2. Janice says:

    The Younger Son has given me so much to think about and no doubt I will be reflecting on this for a long time to come. So much of what Nouwen had to say resonated with me. So often I forget that Gods unconditional love is a gift that I have to accept and not earn. That acceptance of his forgiveness is accepting I’m human and make mistakes and forgiving myself is accepting God’s grace. How often I believe God doesn’t hear my prayers when I’m really just not listening. Reading through Nouwen’s interpretation of the painting and how Rembrandt’s paintings changed so much throughout the years as he encountered life altering tragedies and discovered what was truly important. He could’ve become bitter but through his paintings showed many dimensions of one person including the one seeking forgiveness and the one giving it. For me the death of my beloved husband was the beginning of my journey “home” . When I thought I lost everything in time I realized I had not and God had always been with me. What I thought he had taken from me was never mine, it was just one of the many gifts he gave me. Accepting forgiveness for me is so much harder than giving it. Much to think about.

    • Suellen Nelson says:

      Thank you for this Janice. You give me a different perspective on the husband who walked out unexpectedly. I now appreciate what was good in that gift while it lasted.

  3. In the same way that “Henri shows us that Rembrandt’s spiritual journey can be seen through his art” (Ray’s 1st question), Henri shows us his own spiritual journey through the sequence of his books. Keeping it simple it seems Henri had two turning points; both of which moved him from a “distant country” (36) to true “home” (55).”

    The first was when he felt to be in a foreign land teaching at Yale and then Harvard. There the sought-after love of the world looked like this: “I love you if you are good-looking…wealthy…have a good education” (42). This lead to being a prodigal son since “I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found” (43). Struggling with this paradox led Henri to Genessee Monastery followed the publication of Reaching Out (1975) and Genessee Diary (1976).

    The second turning point was when Henri saw Rembrant’s Prodigal at the Hermitage. This led to leaving academia and joining Daybreak (1986), followed by the book Road to Daybreak (1989). Here he met a “friend” and found that “the enormous space that had been opened for me [in this deeply satisfying relationship], could not be filled by the one who opened it” (Intro xv). The angst of this discovery led Henri into a deep dark wood, where he journaled his way down twisting paths (Dec 1987-June 1988) published as The Inner Voice of Love 8 years later (1996).

    These two turning points represented two long lowlinesses: One realizing we can’t find unconditional love in money, power, status or fame. Two, we can’t find unconditional love in human relationships despite how deep and satisfying. Looking for love in all the wrong places led Henri like Rembrant to look for true Center in Christ. Only here he heard the call of Beloved held in his Father’s arms.

    Reading the Return of the Prodigal a second time, I see that Henri has become to me the mentor that Rembrant was to him; pulling me from a distant country into the arms of Christ.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      I completely agree with Beverly that Henri’s spiritual journey can be followed through his books. As Nouwen scholar Gabrielle Earnshaw has written, “Nouwen wrote to understand himself, God and his experiences. The poster (i.e. on Simone’s door) was a ‘lightening’ moment so he would be drawn to write about it just to understand it. Publishing his writing was ‘laying down his life for his friends.’”

      As Henri notes in our book, he first saw the poster of The Return of the Prodigal Son in 1983. He didn’t resign from Harvard until 1985. He then spent a year at L’Arche Trosly as Beverly indicates. He traveled to see the Rembrandt original in the Hermitage and then moved to L’Arche Daybreak as the pastor in 1986. As Beverly mentions above, and Henri does in our book, he “had to leave to seek help in my struggle and to work directly on my inner healing.” In fact, The Return of the Prodigal Son is the first of Henri’s published work from that difficult time. As Henri was preparing to return to L’Arche after his seven months away, he gave a retreat / workshop to people at L’Arche based on the insights he gained from The Return. . . during his time of healing. That retreat / workshop was the precursor to The Return. . . and it was published after Henri’s death as Home Tonight.

      As a longtime reader of Henri Nouwen, there is no doubt in my mind that Henri’s finest work, including The Return of the Prodigal Son and Life of the Beloved were refined and purified in the fire of his time of desolation. It is through Henri’s suffering that we have been so richly blessed. This topic will be explored in detail in the forthcoming book, Henri Nouwen and The Return of the Prodigal Son: The Making of a Spiritual Classic by Gabrielle Earnshaw to be published on May 12, 2020. Drawing from extensive research as chief archivist for the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust, Gabrielle provides a detailed account of how the book came to be written, shedding light on Nouwen’s writing process and aspects of his life experience that influenced his insights and ideas. I’m looking forward to reading it.

      Thank you Beverly for your insightful comment that prompted this brief reflection.
      Ray

      • Thank you for these insightful comments that connect some dots for me in Henri’s journey. Following the time line has been a little like a treasure hunt; both fun and frustrating.

        I did read some on Henri’s things while he was at Harvard. But it wasn’t until I entered parish ministry (2000) that he became a distant mentor. I would not have gotten through my vocational trials without his writting giving me insight and hope.

        When I entered Centerquest for my certificate in Spiritual Direction, I began to read Nouwen even more deeply. I was experiencing some long time estrangement from my daughter. Like Nouwen, I let someone else be the center of my universe and the grief was overwhelming. His written words were a guide though dark waters. That’s when it occurred to me that his writings were a sequeled memoir.

        Now, I can say that without his central insight of seeing my true home in God, the long lonliness of losing my relationship with my daughter, would have engulfed me. Henri gave me a new horizon.

        It was reading Following Jesus in this book discussion in Advent that cemented that movement in my life. Being Beloved gave me the agency and strength to reach out to my daughter with a love that was not quid pro quo. Like God’s love, no strings attached.

        Finally, your mention of Home Tonight draws me to get a copy. A retreat that was a “precursor” to Henri’s Prodigal sounds a little like his private journal before Inner Voice of Love. Both “precursers” to deeper dislosures laid out for others to learn from. This uncommon vulnerability was his gift. It was his vocation. And In my book, Henri Nouwen is a Saint.

        I can’t thank you and the Trust for preserving his work and honoring his legacy; which more than ever the church needs today. Thank you.

  4. Amy says:

    I really found the concept of distractions or things (“spiritual props”) in place of receiving the Lord’s love is in essence – leaving home every time. Very illuminating on several levels for me personally as we move through lent in light of world events now. It’s somewhat of internal resistance that serves as a nudge to REMEMBER the Lord draws me (everyone) with lovingkindness – all because he cares for our souls to return home.

  5. Chuck says:

    I have always been struck by the evangelization of the disciples following Pentecost. They proclaimed 5 points 1) God loves me unconditionally 2) My relationship with God is broken by sin. 3) Jesus restores my relationship with God through his life, death, and resurrection4) Jesus invites me to give my life to him 5) Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit to bring me to new life.
    Seems to me we must start with knowing we are his beloved sons and daughters But we must also know who God is . The lover, The forgiver, the redeemer, the sacrificial lamb, the inviter, and the activator. Peter truly knew who Jesus was “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” The living God is what Peter choose after he sinned. He knew the living God would redeem him and with this redemption he would be free again to live the life of the gift. Through the power of the Holy Spirit his being will again increase in as much as he gives it away . This was his new life . Without these 5 points we are lost.We are the prodigal son/ daughter. With these we are home. We are with the Prodigal Father.I must remind myself who I am each day . I must embrace my sonship.I must know who the Christ is. The Sacrificial lover with abundant Mercy who will always redeem and renew me through his Holy Spirit. Thus, allowing me to be a gift . This is what I find appealing. This is what I believe we all find appealing.Our Holy desire is to get to be as close to the Prodigal Father as we can . That’s why we were created.

  6. Don says:

    In this reading of Nouwen’s work, I am reflecting on his use of the senses (hearing and touch) to express our notion of being “home.” “Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says ‘You are my Beloved. . .'” (35). “Sensing the touch of God’s blessing hands and hearing the voice. . .are one and the same” (36). “The true voice of love is a very soft and gentle voice. . .a voice that can only be heard by those who allow themselves to be touched” (36). Is it accurate to assume Nouwen is using these as metaphors for our deep, intuitive awareness that we are, by grace and informed by Scripture, able to interpret as “God” communicating with us? Using such experiential terminology brings up the issues of how our brain chemistry and our imagination contribute to our “awareness” of any spiritual realities, to our ability or willingness to speak of “hearing the voice of God.” I sometimes wish Nouwen had written more specifically (though I know it is difficult to do) about just how we come to “know” that these impressions and perceptions are from the Lord. In my own journey, I have attempted to believe and live with a trust in the Holy Spirit to make God’s “voice” and “touch” clear to me. At the same time, when I think about the ways we attempt to speak of “experiencing God,”I resonate with the statement attributed to Karl Rahner: “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

    • Christine says:

      At the end if chapter 2, Henri wrote, “… the Father is looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper again in my ear: ‘You are my Beloved,
      on you my favor rests.'”
      I hadn’t really thought about it, but Henri seems to hear the voice of God rather vividly through scripture. Throughout this book, his study of the parable of the prodigal son, intertwined with Rembrandt’s depiction of the parable brings the gospel tale to life for me.
      I get the sense that Nouwen became intimate with God’s voice through his deep study of scriptural passages.
      To me, this book feels a lot like an extended lectio divina of the parable of the prodigal son.

      • Ray Glennon says:

        There is no question that Scripture was extremely important to Henri. As a Catholic priest, he celebrated Mass nearly every day and would offer a brief reflection on the Scripture readings to those present. As a professor at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard he and his student were constantly immersed in scripture. Scripture is at the heart of Henri’s writing. In the case of the parable of The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri was intimately familiar with the story from Luke’s Gospel. It was that familiarity and Henri’s recent exhausting trip that contributed to the poster on Simone’s door making such a powerful immediate impression on him.
        Ray

  7. Ray Glennon says:

    In the post on Sunday I wrote, “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.” These are good questions to prompt the book discussion and that’s why I included them. They are also very personal to me.

    As I re-read “The Younger Son” for this discussion I cannot help but recall when I first read this book nearly 16 years ago. At that time I was the prodigal son and I “had become so disconnected from what gives life” and I “knew that one more step in the direction (I) was going would take (me) to self-destruction.” (p. 48). For me “A friendship that at first seemed promising and life-giving gradually pulled me farther and farther away from home until I found myself completely obsessed by it.” (p. 49) I was on a business trip to Singapore and I found Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass as I was leaving the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. The blessing of finding and reading this book played a critical role that “allowed me to opt for life” and led to the “rediscovery of (my) deepest self.” Reading and pondering this book on the flight home and in the days that followed started a conversion that took many months and continues today. I know from experience that “The younger son’s return (my note: or conversion or turnaround) takes place in the very moment that he (and I) reclaims his sonship, even though he lost all dignity that belongs to it. . . . Once (I) had come again in touch with the truth of (my) sonship, (I) could hear–although faintly–the voice calling (me) the Beloved and feel–although distantly–the touch of blessing.” (p. 49)

    There is so much more to be gained from Henri’s reflection on The Younger Son and it is well worth the effort to do so. Seeing Jesus himself as the true prodigal is but one example. But for me, Henri’s words describing the younger son’s decision to return home will remain with me forever.

    May the Lord give you peace.
    Ray

  8. Karin says:

    I have found Henri’s depiction of what it means to “leave home” very insightful. I have not lived a life of obvious debauchery but I have spent my life trying to prove myself and be good enough and acceptable and worthy of love rather than accept the father’s unconditional love.

  9. Larry Bangs says:

    Many of the comments posted have led me to deeper insight and I’m grateful. I have only read Chapter 1, “The Younger Son Leaves.” I’m hesitant to move on before I have fully imbibed it. It is painful to confront the moment to moment reality that I would vastly prefer to engage “in the world” not remembering or acknowledging Jesus’ love and God’s grace. Instead of contemplating the book or the comments (and any number of other activities available to me that bring me in contact with the living grace of God), I get caught up so easily in the news feed on the internet, Facebook, etc. I find myself rooting strongly for things that give me a temporary sense of “winning” and avoiding those things which leave me with a sense of loss or frustration, although I must be fascinated by the loss and frustration because I return to it so often only to cringe and turn toward something that looks like winning. Somewhat like having my foot nailed to the floor and flailing around in circles. I do recognize a great deal of progress in terms of more readily recognizing when I’m lost. Not so good at engaging with things that will bring me home. A work in progress to say the least. Thanks very much to Diane Francis: “God is never done with us.”

  10. Diane C says:

    It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to not be a fountain of tears when I spend time with Henri. And this reading of the younger son was no exception. But they are always tears of profound joy as I recognize myself and my own struggles through Henri’s words. I am not alone! I am not the only human who has searched far and wide and for my entire life, from childhood to old age, to find a place of belonging. What a joyous relief to discover that, like the prodigal son, I have always belonged. I have always been loved…..without conditions.
    Reading this chapter again after all these years, I was especially drawn to Henri’s suggestion that the figure of the prodigal son, kneeling before his father, was a representation of Jesus as the beloved son. He says: “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”
    How complicated I have made my own journey! It is telling to me that one of Jesus’ first teachings after being hearing God’s voice that He is the Beloved, was the Beatitudes. This is so obviously intentional to me now. Jesus is calling me to become a child again. Henri encourages us that we will discover the joys of this second childhood. “Comfort, mercy, and an ever clearer vision of God.”
    So inspired by this revelation, I concluded my time with Henri with a guided meditation/centering prayer through The Beatitudes. I will keep them close in my heart and endeavor to walk through this day with child-like faith and wonder.

  11. Jody says:

    The notion of leaving home continues to be the theme that stands out to me the most. In the past when I’ve read this parable or heard it as part of a sermon, the prodigal son represented someone who had committed major sins. As I read Nouwen’s thoughts now, I realize I leave home every day. I’m easily “pulled into the ‘distant country'” when I listen to any voice other than God’s who calls me his beloved. Those other voices are loud at times. I continue to leave home and search for unconditional love in places it does not and will never exist. Thank goodness God welcomes me home every time I turn toward his voice and run into his arms!

    • Michelle Carattini says:

      Such a beautiful insight! Thank you!!

      • Patricia Hesse says:

        I think that leaving home is necessary to realize just how precious it is. It’s kinda like standing only an inch away from a large painting –you are perhaps as close as you can get, but it’s not until you back up and place distance between you and painting that you truly see its beauty.

    • Liz says:

      So true bc we have many media messages bombarding our minds. I need to cut screen time to allow for the voice of God.

  12. RoseAnn hunt says:

    The Prodigal Son, the home coming, the forgiveness are all so welcoming. I have on retreat entered a place where my ego was contained, like a child strapped in an infant car seat, and I was able to enter into the embrace of God Love. How I wanted to live there in peace and beauty of the moment. Unfortunately that egoless place was flighting and although I reach for that connection I have not found it again. But I know it exists and if God’s love is that place I am ready to surrender to it.
    This will send me back to the Beatitudes for the lessons they contain. Henri writing open them up in a new way. Seeing them as a self portrait of Jesus and as a way a way to enter the Kingdom with a child like heart is a welcome road map.

  13. Ray Glennon says:

    From Paul Q
    There’s a reluctance in the light… or should I write, a comfort in the lessening shadow.
    Seems as the son is embraced…as the hopes of his life are found in the embrace of the one who loves him just because…are all those hopes in all those people in the lessening shadows. The author of the Bible story gives us the son’s exploits. The author invites us into the son’s mindset. Or is it the author’s mindset? What I don’t know is what’s in the minds of the other characters..but they do watch… they do see.. perhaps they flinch at the embrace because they want and need the touch so much that the slightest brush of humanity upon their needful beings is so alarming… because the need is so deeply felt. Perhaps they need to bust out, scream, break the norm, dance a little, live a little, break the ho-hum, go for self realization and just dare not… lest they lose all they have.. yest the creature comforts and the pains, doubts and fears.. for even pain, doubt and fear can become familiar. What we know is the embrace… and the light….

  14. Paul Q says:

    I often walked with Peter and Judas.
    Judas is the A Type business guy. Seems his sense of right and purpose are wrapped up in a measure of success. That success is his area. He can make that happen. He knows how to make that happen. He’s the “bottom line” guy for the Disciples and if they were to ever go public, he’s prepared to attract investors. Let’s not dismiss the face that he believes in what he’s doing. His skills are aligned with his faith and this Jesus of Nazareth has embodied his heartfelt purpose. Yet. Jesus hold the purpose. It’s a bit removed from Judas. He can be there but just can’t go there. Not on Jesus’ terms. He might have to be something different, someone different and whom might that be? What will that look like? Will I be successful? Will I be “employable”? “Useful”? “Needed”? “Loved”? The love and the passion are there yet so guarded.

    Peter? Well, he gets it eventually…He’s the fly guy, the co-pilot, the wing-man. And seems like the role fits him until Jesus begins to switch seats with him…slowly easing him into the driver’s seat. He can surely do it. He just has to get familiar with the controls, the movements the passion and focus.

  15. Christopher Ciummei says:

    I was struck by the deep ways in which Nouwen pegs the nature of the younger son, not just as a motif for Jesus, but also as a representation of our continual spiritual struggle to not “overthink”, and to stay within God’s embrace. As an immature young man, I, too, was taken by the shiny baubles of unfulfilled and excessive living. However, when I got into my early 30s, this, too, became tiresome and directionless. Where could I turn? I had friends, but they had their own lives. I had been in relationships, but none of them had succeeded at that point. So, I turned to my parents, and they were instrumental in helping me get stable and were so supportive. They took on the role of the father for me at that time… and hopefully as they grow older, I can do the same for them. ❤️

    • Diane Frances says:

      Christopher, what a beautiful reminder that God’s love can be manifested by our human relationships.

      • Christopher Ciummei says:

        Absolutely Diane! We are ourselves less as strictly confined to our ages or our times, and are able to focus primarily on care for ourselves and others, which, essentially, is the basis of all human decency and Christian thought. 🙂

  16. Diane Frances says:

    This section on the younger son is mind blowing to me! So many new perspectives on how I’ve lived my life away from home. So much of Henri’s journey resonated with me. This is one passage that really struck me:

    “Do I truly want to be so totally forgiven that a completely new way of living becomes possible? Do I trust myself and such a radical reclamation? Do I want to break away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrender myself so absolutely to God’s love that a new person can emerge? “

    I have been struggling with a relationship issue and recently realized that I hadn’t brought God into that relationship to help with healing. I kind of wanted to remain in a state of rebellion, in a land separate from God. I didn’t want to give up my prize possessions of resentment and anger, which is what I believe God would ask me to do. It’s like Leonard Cohen says in one of his songs “ I was fighting with temptation but I didn’t want to win. I’m the kind that doesn’t like to see temptation caving in”. After a long time of what I believe was the Holy Spirit nudging at my conscience, I was finally able to admit this. And with that, God came running out to embrace me and bring me home while giving me the strength to heal that relationship. So at least in that aspect of my life, a new person has emerged. And the amazing thing is that we are all given infinite opportunities to return home. God is never done with us.

    • Christopher Ciummei says:

      I agree! It is often the biggest struggle to accept Christ’s forgiveness, and, in doing so, progress forward in our own lives, as well as with His mission for us in the world. We are constantly evolving and learning more in our spiritual lives.

  17. Patricia Hesse says:

    Many years ago, I was eight months pregnant with our first child. I was excited and already wondering what the child would be like, imagining what we would do together and the joy I’d discover. Toward the end of the pregnancy, I stopped feeling the baby move. Fearful, I lay very still on my back for a long time, hoping, feeling… but nothing. I called the doctor, and he reassured me that babies sometimes settle down toward the end. Yet, I knew something wasn’t right. The next day I became ill and went to my obstetrician. I remember exactly his words and how I felt all these many years later: “Unfortunately, your baby has died. It sometimes happens. I know this is hard. You will probably go into labor soon.” The mental anguish of living, while the baby inside you is dead is paralyzing. When the child was delivered, I was angry at God and told him what I thought of Him. He listened. Time passed and eventually, the poison emptied from my thoughts and was replaced with a gentle, tender pain of remembrance in my heart that remains to this day.

    A year later, I was pregnant again. This time was different. I had learned that having a baby was not something “I” did, but was a miracle from God. When they placed my little daughter, Jessica, in my arms, the tears ran down my face –I was looking at a tender, holy life that God created. There were no words, only tears. Then several years later we were blessed again with another child. Although I love my adult girls even more with each day, it is the first baby …the one that went to live with the Lord before she was even born …that was and always has been, my most precious.

    Henri explains that the prodigal “was truly lost, and it was this complete lostness that brought him to his senses.” He says in another section that “In retrospect, it seems that the prodigal had to lose everything to come into touch with the ground of his being.”

    I was a prodigal. I was truly lost in seeing life itself, as something I did. I felt “complete lostness” when my child left this world before she even took her first breath, but after a time… in God’s mercy, I came to my senses. I knew. The Father’s hands held me tenderly during that difficult time, and they were there holding me as I held His creation of a beautiful newborn baby in my arms.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Patricia,
      This is breathtaking. Thank you for sharing this touching and important story.
      May the Lord continue to give you peace.
      Ray

    • Alison Blenkinsop says:

      I’m a retired midwife and have had to support many parents in this agonising situation. In one, it was a Christian couple, working abroad as mission partners, whom I’d got to know as I too had served in that country. I spoke to the mother the day before, when all seemed well, then the next morning I had a call from the wonderful chaplain at the hospital and knew immediately what had happened. I felt so angry with God, and still find tears coming to my eyes as I think of the parents’ pain, but also the gracious, loving acceptance that their first baby, a daughter, was not to live with them. They have two more daughters now and are a wonderful, loving family. Thank you Patricia for showing me more of the ongoing sorrow they must have, though they don’t speak of it. May God continue to heal and comfort you, and help you use your experience of God’s love in your pain and grief to support others.

    • Patricia Martin says:

      Thank you Patricia, for sharing this story, which is just as Ray described. I am realizing that I always thought of our babies as “something ‘I’ did.” I’ve been realizing much more but am unable to fully articulate a new understanding and insight into our own miracles from God. Again, thank you.

  18. Katy-Anne says:

    I have read and reread these three chapters, but especially two and three. I can’t get past this:

    “One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness. There is something in us humans that keeps us clinging to our sins and prevents us from letting God erase our past and offer us a completely new beginning. Sometimes it even seems as though I want to prove to God that my darkness is too great to overcome. While God wants to restore me to the full dignity of sonship, I keep insisting that I will settle for being a hired servant. But do I truly want to be restored to the full responsibility of the son? Do I truly want to be so totally forgiven that a completely new way of living becomes possible? Do I trust myself and such a radical reclamation? Do I want to break away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrender myself so absolutely to God’s love so that a new person can emerge? Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing. As long as I want to do even a part of that myself, I end up with partial solutions, such as becoming a hired servant. As a hired servant, I can still keep my distance, still revolt, reject, strike, run away, or complain about my pay. As the beloved son, I have to claim my full dignity and begin preparing myself to become the father.”

    This is me. It’s totally where I’m at right now. In my life in general as I seek healing, wholeness and sobriety, in my recovery process, everything. It resonated deep inside of me. I can’t stop reading it. On Ash Wednesday I knelt in silence at the beginning of the service, and prayed silently “please forgive my refusal to walk as your beloved child.” It’s all I had in me, but God heard and I think it was enough.

    I know that God loves me and God forgives me. I have to choose to accept that God loves me and forgives me. Believing it isn’t enough.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Katy-Anne,
      Thank you for joining us on our Lenten journey. And thank you especially for this deeply personal and honest sharing. The choice to accept God’s love and forgiveness is one we can make every day, and if we forget it later that day, God gives us another day with another chance to choose his love. I know, because I forget often.
      May you experience God’s love daily and know that he walks with you, even when you might feel alone.
      Ray

    • Christopher Ciummei says:

      I felt a strong identification with this chapter and the younger son too. I also LOVED that Fr. Pierre Marie quote towards the end. So beautiful!

    • Patricia Martin says:

      After also reading and rereading Part 1, I am turning to the comments of others for help in connecting the Prodigal son’s return to my own life as Henri did to his own. Katy-Anne you stated that “Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing. As long as I want to do even a part of that myself, I end up with partial solutions, such as becoming a hired servant.” Your words show me that my inclination to do things myself extends to forgiveness. From time to time I still feel that I should have or need to do more to merit forgiveness. Knowing that I am forgiven is not the same as total willingness to “let God be God” and totally accept God’s mercy in receiving the prodigal back home. I see that I am resisting this.

  19. Ray Glennon says:

    From Kevin Haurin
    Hi! My name is Kevin. I live near Cincinnati, OH. I have been reading the daily meditations for some time. Look forward to this shared experience with so many who have perceived life is just a short journey that provides us opportunity to prepare for our ultimate union with God.

  20. Ray Glennon says:

    From Louise Cantin
    This week’s reading left me with two important impressions…
    First, this is the first discussion I risk getting « into the light » of sharing with all of you. It is so easy for me to be a bystander, observe, listen, read and…not be seen. So, this is a real step for me: be seen, feel vulnerable and …approach the Father. From the older daughter to the prodigal daughter desiring so much to drop the resentment and the protective armor. Second, I come to realize how difficult it is for me to let myself be held in love. And yet, this is my calling as the beloved daughter of God: as Henri said, to go from the house of Love to the houses of fears, and from the home of God to the homes of my fellow humans. Be where God is dwelling in me, in prayer, in gratitude and letting myself be loved so I can offer this love and joy to those I encounter. This is not an easy road but it is definitely the road I want to be on…with all of you.

    • Elaine M says:

      Like you, Louise, I sometimes find it difficult to just let myself be held in love and not succumb to my fears and preoccupations in the first place. It is easier for me to say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my roof ” after the fact than to remember, especially in a moment of frustration and anxiety about the travails of life, that God is EVER PRESENT in my inner sanctuary. I do have the confidence in God’s boundless mercy after my lapse to say, “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” And I like that in community we precede the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer by saying “With confidence we dare to say, ‘our FATHER.'” We do have confidence that God is our father and not some judgmental being armed with a thunderbolt of justice. We do believe that if we come home, we will be welcomed with open arms. So why do I cause myself so much grief by leaving “home” in the first place?

      I am always looking with ways of praying without ceasing. I read and reread Henri for such answers, and I welcome any suggestions from this wonderful group of seekers.

      • Louise Cantin says:

        Thank you Elaine for your comforting words : it is comforting to know that I am not alone in this quest for truly accepting God’s love despite my shortcomings and the resentment that is emerging when I go deeper looking for my true identity as His beloved daughter. Anger and shame, related to my feeling rejected or neglected, as a child, are being healed but remnants still prevent me from truly believing in « only say the word and I shall be healed ». So, thanks for reminding me that this is the TRUTH. To me, prayer is a conversation with a friend where I can express it all: the good, the bad and the ugly!! The word that is true consolation for me is Is 43,4-5: «  Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…fear not for I am with you ». As you say, he is PRESENT…even though we often are not. Let’s persevere in being present, in uncovering what keeps us from experiencing His love. Today, your words remind me of His presence.

  21. Ray Glennon says:

    From Mart
    Note: Comment moved from Week 1 post so it can be seen by all.

    Thank you all so much for your comments. I have taken so much away from them. All I can add is to say, like many of you, my coming home to the Father lies in the openness of my prayers.

    In prayer, I visualize God as a campfire burning in the middle of a dark wood. The flames of His love comfort me and give me warmth They also protect me from the darkness that surrounds me. To sit around such a fire is to know a deep peace that I do not find anywhere else. John Woolman, who writes from my own tradition, calls the place of prayer ‘a precious habitation’and this is how the Father embraces me.

    However, I also know of the spiritual pride Nouwen sees in the elder son and I pray that the Spirit dampens it whenever it arises in my heart.

    Am I called to be a spiritual father? Of course, we all are, but I do not yet know what this will look like. That part of my pilgrimage is still ahead of me.

    Thank you all so much for your wisdom.

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