Reading: The Surgery, The Recovery, p. 45 to 80
“In case I die, tell everyone that I feel an immense love for all the people
I have come to know. . . Tell them to celebrate with me and
be grateful for all that God has given me.” (p. 54)
In our reading last week, Henri tells us the story of the accident and his time in the hospital prior to surgery. He shares how this experience differs from those times in the past when he had “experienced immense inner anguish and turmoil” and now he “felt only peace, joy, and an all-pervading sense of security.” As we read this week, it was while he was awaiting surgery and during his recovery that Henri understood the source of his peace and joy. “(W)hat I experienced was an intensely personal presence, a presence that pushed all my fears aside and said, ‘Come, don’t be afraid. I love you.'” (p. 47)
Henri describes a deeply personal encounter with Jesus writing, “All was well. The words that summarize it all are Life and Love. But these words were incarnate in a real presence.” (p. 48) And it was during his recovery that Henri came to his life-changing insight that “the words spoken to Jesus when he was baptized are words spoken to me and to all who are brothers and sisters of Jesus.” (p. 69) And what were those words? “‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). The words reveal the true identify of Jesus as the beloved.” (p. 68) Henri concludes describing “the great spiritual task facing me” (p. 70) and asking “whether my encounter with death has freed me enough from the addictions of the world that I can be true to my vocation as I now see it ‘sent’ from above.” (p. 74) From our vantage point three decades later, he most assuredly did—as manifest in the many books published in the last six years of his life.*
Before moving on to the discussion questions, I want to express my gratitude for the thoughtful and personal comments posted last week. I also want to acknowledge several of our regular participants including Janet, Beverly and Marge. As always, your presence and contributions are greatly appreciated. For new contributors, we’re very glad for your participation. Keep it up. For those that are following along in silence, we’re glad that you are here too. Finally, I hope that all of you will join us for our Advent book discussion that begins on Wednesday, November 24th. We will be reading the newly released book Community by Henri Nouwen, edited by Stephen Lazarus.
As always, please share your thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences related to the readings this week. What touched your heart? What spiritual insights or inspiration did you gain? How might you choose to change your life? You might consider the following:
- I, myself, however, kept feeling that dying was possible and that I had to prepare myself and my friends for it. (p. 46) Have you ever had a similar feeling? Please share to the extent you are willing.
- What most prevented me from dying was the sense of unfinished business, unresolved conflicts with people with whom I live or had lived. (p.50) Is there unfinished business in your life that keeps you from being ready to die (or at peace)? What steps can you take to resolve the situation?
- I realized on a very deep level that dying is the most important act of living. (p. 64) Do you agree with Henri? Why or why not. (Note: Henri discusses this idea in more detail in his book Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring.)
- Henri asks, Can I become like Jesus and witness to what I have seen? (p. 71) How would you respond to Henri’s question?
We look forward to your comments and another week of fruitful discussion.
May the Lord give you peace.
P.S. Be sure to register for the free webinar Remembering Henri: The Gifts of a Fruitful Life that will take place on September 21, 2021—the 25th anniversary of Henri’s death. Click here for more information and to register.
*Books published after The Recovery include: Life Of The Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (1992), The Return Of The Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (1992), Here And Now: Living in the Spirit (1994), Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring (1994), The Inner Voice Of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (1996), Can You Drink The Cup? (1996), Sabbatical Journey: The Diary of His Final Year (1997), Adam: God’s Beloved (1997), Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (1997)