Week 4: March 26th – April 1st

Reading: Chapters 5 and 6 – Adam’s Passion and Adam’s Death

These two chapters are a very tender sharing of Adam’s passion and death.  Not an easy topic to explore.  Yet, as in his life, also through his death, Adam was a strong and clear guide for Henri.  There is so much here to reflect upon, at such a deep level.  Rather than offer specific questions this week, we offer a few quotes and invite you to reflect on and share from them.

1_ “Adam clearly challenged us to trust that compassion, not competition, is the way to fulfill our human vocation.  This challenge forced us to reexamine all the basic assumptions our individual and action-oriented lives” (p90).

2_”That, to me, is the final significance of Adam’s passion: a radical call to accept the truth of our lives and to choose to give our love when we are strong and to receive the love of others when we are weak, always with tranquility and generosity” (p 91).

3_”It was as if he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Henri.  Let my death help you to befriend yours.  When you are no longer afraid of your own death, then you can live fully, freely and joyfully” (p 102).

3_”Death is such a mystery, forcing us to ask ourselves,
‘Why do I live?
How do I live?
For whom do I live?’ and also
‘Am I prepared to die… now… later?'” (p101-102)

We so very much appreciate the open and real sharing from each of you.  Please feel free to share whatever came up for you in these two very special chapters.  We also want to continue to remember those who are journeying with us quietly.  Thank you for being with us!

Yours in gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

15 Replies to “Week 4: March 26th – April 1st”

  1. Wow! A book should be published of all these beautiful comments…so much to ponder…thanks for them all! The Holy Spirit moves through all of you and has touched my soul!
    Adam’s story reminds me once again of the tragedy of lives lost that should have been; children that parents decided were not meant to be, children that God placed here to teach us, and lead us spiritually, like Adam. It creates in me an even stronger passion to speak out for those who have no voice in this world…

  2. Let me join Brynn in expressing my gratitude for your profound and deeply personal sharing as we walk with Henri and Adam on our Lenten journey.

    I had several thoughts as I considered Henri’s difficult and touching reflection on Adam’s passion and death. “Adam lived his every moment of his life waiting for others to act on his behalf.” (p 84). This brought to mind Jesus’ words to Peter,
    “…someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18) May we trust in Jesus and those he sends to help us along the way.

    “Adam’s total dependence made it possible for him to life fully only if we lived in a loving community around him.” (p. 90) Similarly, we are totally dependent for our existence on God through his Son “who sustains all things by his word” (Heb 1:3) And, as Henri so often emphasized, it is by living in community with others that we truly experience God’s presence and love.

    In our Confirmation preparation small group each year, my wife and I challenge the candidates to consider the question, Hows should we live? Reflecting on Adam’s passion Henri provides a powerful answer saying we must “choose to give our love when we are strong and to receive the love of others when we are weak, always with tranquility and generosity.” (p 91)

    Finally, as Adam entered the final stage of his life, Ann Pavilonis, the head of New House where Adam lived said to Henri, “Just pray that we will live it well.” (p 93). This poignant chapter shows how Adam and those who loved him did just that. This important idea of living a life and death well is explored in greater detail Henri’s book Finding My Way Home. The final chapter, “The Path of Living and Dying” is a beautiful reflection about our journey through life, especially as it nears its end. Henri writes, “Our spirit, the love we leave behind, is deeply in God’s spirit. It is our greatest gift to those we love. We, like Jesus, are on a journey, living to make our lives abundantly fruitful through our leaving.” And Adam lived an abundantly fruitful life.

    May the Lord give you peace.

  3. Hello

    This is my first comment of the discussion. I am very grateful for this book and learning about Adam’s life.

    The preciousness of Adam’s life and the impact he had so profoundly on those who met him touches my spirit. The way he received others so quietly and yet so confidently is a mystery of God’s love and an encouragement to me to receive and extend love to others in ways that are outside of my self and instead reflect the spirit of God in me. “to receive the love of others when we are weak, always with tranquility and generosity” ….to trust that compassion, not competition, is the way to fulfill our human vocation.”

  4. I so very much appreciate each of you and all that you have shared here. In the last few weeks I didn’t have a chance to post a personal comment… but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Each of your comments has added so much for me in this book discussion.

    I’ve been thinking about last weeks readings. When we choose to be “powerless” before God he is free to move and work through us. In fact I remember a book by A.W. Tozer where he talks about how the fruits of our lives that have eternal worth are the fruits of the things we did in God’s strength, not ours. “God is look for people through whom he can do the impossible. What a pity when we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” Oh Lord, may I become less and you become more. Have your way in me, be glorified.

    In this week’s readings I’ve been thinking about how to journey well with people who are going through their passion and/or death. Can I be radically present in these times, as Rosie was for Adam? Lord give me the clarity and the courage.


  5. “Am I prepared to die… now… later?” Part of the answer that appears as I live the questions is “Can I let go?” or “Can I begin to let go?” I first received this difficult lesson during my mother’s passage / passion almost ten years ago. In the time between then and now the lesson of letting go has been a kind and gentle friend as I have witnessed the passages of other family members and friends.

    Will I let go of false self to receive God’s loving embrace? Can I love to the extent I am able? Can I forgive from the heart? The answers to these kinds of questions in everyday living make the contemplation of “Am I prepared?” less daunting.

    Do I need to do my part to mend a broken relationship today? Yes. I do. I ask for God’s strength and presence to do His will this day.

    Then maybe, just maybe, I can begin to grasp St. Paul’s statement: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8

  6. As I read about Adam’s passion and recalled Jesus’ passion I thought of the final months of my mother’s life and death from cancer of the pancreas. My mother had to have emergency explorative surgery and that was when the doctors discovered the cancer. At that time she had a near-death experience where Jesus told her that he had something for her to do before she died. For six months friends whom I never met except in Christmas letters and her friends came to visit and take her on outings when she was able. Some took days off from work to do this but it was their way of saying goodbye to her. The last couple of months she was quite ill and basically all my family and I could do was sit at her bedside like the people did for Adam. One day my mother cried and said “I don’t know what it was that Jesus wanted me to do so I don’t know whether I did it!” at that I put my head on her chest and I too cried because her last days were blessed days for all of us even though emotionally draining. There was so much reconciliation within our family. The day before she died, she called each one of us separately into her room and talked to us, then she gave each of us her blessing and said that she would continue to be with us even after she died. All during that time her friends continued to visit on a regular basis and took time to be with her in the hospital so that we could have a break. For months after her death I felt her presence with me. Now 37 years after her death, I experience her presence every time there is a thunder storm. My mother used to have us sit on her lap on the porch during thunder storms and tell us how good God was because He was making the rain for the garden and the lightening to put nitrogen in the soil so the garden would grow well. Today I love thunderstorms and I fondly think “Mom you are coming to checkup on me?” and I know she is still with me like Adam is with Henri and Jesus is with all of us.

  7. This week the readings brought me to tears, particularly the scene Henri describes as Adam took his last breath, and then the thought of his parents driving back home knowing their beloved son was no longer here with them on this earth. I have known parents who have lost their children and have often wondered how a parent survives such a loss. It has to be through God’s grace and mercy and love and support from family and friends. It made me stop and be thankful for my children and their health and not to sound too cliche, but to pause and realize each day is truly a gift from God. These readings also made me ponder the last quote “why do I live? how do I live? for whom do I live? Am I afraid to die…now…or later?” If I am totally being honest with myself, I don’t know if I could answer this last question at this moment with a “no”. As I read Adam’s story, I continuously go back to a quote from the very first chapter in which Henri says Adam “had few distractions, few attachments, and few ambitions to fill his inner space….[he] did not have to become empty for God.” That is one of my prayers for myself, something that I struggle with, that I can become more like Adam and shut out the distractions of my busy life and become “empty” for God so that I CAN answer that last question with a “no, I’m not afraid to die, now or later” so that I can live more “fully, freely, and joyfully.”

  8. Two events of this past week have really dramatized for me the meaning of these two chapters.
    1. I just returned home from the funeral of a beloved aunt who suffered from increasingly severe mental and physical limitations in her last years of life. Once the self-proclaimed life of any party, an extroverted person whose generous heart and effusive spirit endeared her to everyone she met, she became dependent primarily on a husband who patiently and lovingly tended to her every need. Interestingly, both the aunt who was now dependent and her caregiver husband became the inspiration for all of us. He too had lost some of his independence and control of his own life as his world now centered on her needs. How hard it must have been for both of them, once world travelers and people of considerable influence in their business and social circles, to surrender to their new circumstances, yet their new kind of strength provided a powerful lesson for all of us.
    2. My daughter, who is the teacher of profoundly handicapped children, and her own preteen daughter devoted an afternoon of their spring break for a “play date” with one of the students, an intermediate grade student who is just a little more communicative and physically capable than Adam. As my daughter provided some companionship for the student’s mother, my granddaughter spent her time helping the little girl to–of all things–navigate the bounce house at a recreation center. Never mind that the whole experience was a series of tumbles onto the soft and bouncy floor, both girls giggled and giggled as they surrendered to the inevitable falls. What a lesson in that!

  9. Henri Nouwen reflected that Adam’s entire life was “passion.” This is a deeply humbling statement to me because it brings to mind the Beatitudes. Individuals, like Adam, with severe special needs can reflect God so deeply to us. They reflect Jesus during his suffering.

  10. Adam’s vulnerability reminds me by my first experience to help disabled children in Mother Theresa home in kolkata last year. I used to be scared from disabled avoiding them questioning why & how they live?! till the moment Jesus took my hands to show me their beauty to show me my weaknesses through them. Asha a disabled girl I loved to help her there taught me alot taught me Love, Joy, purity & peace. When I was amid them I always felt God is telling me this is heaven & those disabled are part of people invited to heaven & to be part of heaven you need to accept them accept to see yourself through their eyes accept to receive…

  11. This morning I read the Connie’s and Miriam’s posts for Week 4 and acknowledged to myself that I too had been drawn to what Henri wrote about Jesus’ mission being fulfilled by what was done to him, not by what he did himself. I thought of this in terms of suffering and wondered how that connected with my experience.
    But then this afternoon, I visited our local post office, which is a friendly place where it isn’t unusual to meet someone I know. As it happened today, I did meet someone whom I’ve been acquainted with over a period of many decades. She was mailing baby clothes to her daughter, who is expecting a baby, and the first grandchild of my friend. She was beyond excited as she had given up hope of ever becoming a grandmother.
    As I drove home, it struck me that I didn’t do anything to become a grandmother. It was not my decision or my action; it was done to me. It started a whole new era of my life which is so very full of joy.
    Although I have experienced so much joy being a grandmother, as each year goes by, I know that I am journeying closer to my death. My going will break my children’s hearts as my father’s death broke mine. But I know that isn’t the end. God heals broken hearts and as Henri observes about Jesus’ death, his death was the beginning of a new communion (p. 102).
    The emphasis I feel right now is full of hope rather than on the sorrow of suffering. The suffering is there, like the labor of childbirth, but it isn’t the focus.
    This connection with the Week 4 readings felt “given” to me. I pass it along to the rest of you in that same spirit. I feel blessed and hope you will too.

  12. All is grace…grace to accept others as they are, grace to accept ourselves as we are, grace to give, grace to receive…ALL is grace.

  13. Being a caregiver certainly helps answer some of these questions. One early sees people who die young and seemingly needlessly. This causes intense questioning which needs to be answered before you can form good relationships. I remember caring for a woman who had MS. She could only move her head. At that time I struggled with depression and feelings of worthlessness. Somehow, I was able to notice that this person’s life still mattered even though she couldn’t even brush a fly off her face. So that spoke to me at that time for myself. Even if I couldn’t move, I would still matter.

    Questions about death are just questions about life. Have I responded to God’s callings? I trust God will be with me in life and in death. Of course I don’t want to miss spending time with my loved ones, but
    I m not specifically scared to die.

    1. Miriam,
      What you’ve said here struck me at the center of where I struggle: “Even if I couldn’t move, I would still matter.” So many masks…the work one does, clothes they where, church the go to, initials after their name, on and on…its often what matters to most. Or so it seems.

      Yesterday I visited a church were I’m to facilitate a workshop Monday. It was in a poor community, the yard was unkempt, the building in need of repair. That I can accept, but what struck me most was the lack of welcome. I wandered around for 10 minutes trying to find the person I was meeting. When I did, he treated me like an after thought. I left feeling down and disquieted. I thought of the people coming to this workshop from pretigious places and felt some shame. I thought of those coming needing welcome. I asked God to help me see how he sees this. To help me see how God sees this. I felt like canceling the whole thing.

      I’m not sure I have my answer to that question yet. But you’re answer struck me and invites me to see a little differently. Despite the seeming dysfunction and run down condition of that church, it matters to God. That little church ministers to many poor people. In fact, I think my task is put aside my snobbery and see beyond my stumbling blocks: See God in this place, surrender and ask him to change my heart. Thank you for your words and letting me ramble. Please pray for me Monday when I do this little workshop.

  14. The great mystery of Jesus’ life is that He fulfilled His mission not in action but in passion, not by what He did, but by what was done to Him~~He laid down His life.
    Adam’s whole life was passion, a life of suffering~a radical call to accept the truth of our lives and choose to give our love when we are strong and receive the LOVE of others when we are weak. Henri acknowledged Adam as his counselor, teacher, guide, beloved friend, where is our Passion? Who has God sent to help us see Christ? Lead us Lord in these days of Lent, help us to slow down, look around us, be your Beloved accept that we are to be your hands, feet and Passion to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *