April 10th to 16th: Holy Week—Our Journey Ends

Reading: Letter VII—Listening to Jesus (p. 81 to p. 85)

I pray that you will venture on a life with Jesus. He asks everything
of you, but gives you more in return.
(p. 85)

As we come to the end of our Lenten journey, we read a letter written by Henri in late-August 1986 shortly after his arrival at L’Arche Daybreak to begin his ministry there. Moving to L’Arche was Henri’s answer to what he called the burning question, “How best am I to follow Jesus?” (p. 81) We know now what Henri couldn’t have known then—at L’Arche during the final ten years of his life Henri found the home he was seeking; he suffered a devastating breakdown and a life-threatening accident; through his suffering he discovered and believed in the depth of his heart that, like Jesus, he was the beloved; and he was inspired to write some of his most memorable books including Life of the Beloved, The Inner Voice of Love, his spiritual masterpiece The Return of the Prodigal Son, and his final book, Adam—God’s Beloved.

In this final letter to Marc, Henri reviews the spiritual journey that he and Marc shared, and that we have benefited from. Henri writes, “My greatest desire was to awaken in you a deep love of Jesus. I’ve told you about the Jesus who liberates, of the suffering Jesus and his compassion; of the Jesus who in humility chose the descending way; of the loving Jesus who challenges us to love even our enemies; and finally of the Jesus of Nazareth who reveals to us the mystery of God’s hiddenness.” (p. 82) (A personal note: As the discussion moderator, it’s wonderful when the author of the book we are reading provides the summary for the concluding post.)

Henri says to Marc, and through him to each of us, “You and I are called to be disciples of Jesus. The differences between us in age, circumstances, upbringing, and experience are small compared with the calling we have in common.” (p. 83) And he reminds us that it is essential to listen to the voice of God in a world that is constantly clamoring for our attention. Henri offers us three forms of listening that were meaningful to him: 1) Listen to the church; 2) Listen to the book (i.e., Bible and other spiritual reading); and 3) Listen to your heart.

Of the three forms of listening, the importance of listening to my heart is my Lenten takeaway and recurring challenge. Henri writes, “You need to set aside some time every day for his active listening to Jesus, if only for ten minutes. Ten minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in your life.” (p. 84). Henri’s words to Marc about the importance of daily prayer could have been directed at me. Deo Volente (God willing) this discussion will inspire me to step away from the hectic world and to spend quiet time every day listening to Jesus —especially on those days when I’m certain that I’m too busy to take the time to pray.

As many of you have been doing, please share whatever touched your heart in the readings or your reflections from this week or anytime throughout Lent. Once again, I want to thank you for joining to share Henri’s Letters to Marc About Jesus during our journey toward Easter. It has been a privilege and a blessing to travel along with each of you—those posting comments and those walking with us silently. We are all on the road to God’s heavenly kingdom and it’s comforting to know we are not alone.

On behalf of the Henri Nouwen Society, may you and yours have a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter season.

Peace and all good,

P.S. Please join us on Wednesday, November 23rd when we will begin our Advent book discussion with welcome and introductions. The book selection for our Advent discussion
will be announced in early-fall.

16 Replies to “April 10th to 16th: Holy Week—Our Journey Ends”

  1. Thank you so much for this offering, Ray!
    I have decided that Henri is my Spiritual Mentor and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book during Lent and discussing it with Dawn. I also read “God’s Beloved: A Spiritual Biography of Henri Nouwen” last month. This month I am reading “Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith”.
    Everything I read by Henri Nouwen is excellent and touches my heart as well as my mind!
    Blessings to you all during this after Easter “Ordinary Time”, Beth

  2. Dear fellow Lenten journeyers, I have enjoyed reading “Letters to Marc” and your discussion comments. Henri Nouwen presented a very straight forward description of the life of Jesus. It wasn’t what I expected at all, yet it hit ‘home’ in my heart. I will probably re-read the letters in the future. I’m so glad that his final letter challenged us to attend church, read the Bible and other spiritual books, and find a quiet time to listen to Jesus. I have not attended church in person (but have on-line) for the last two years. I think it may be time to go again (even with a mask). I have been practicing Centering Prayer with an on-line group and in private following Thomas Keating’s model and that is what has sustained me during the pandemic. I have a book about the gospels that I want to read next, including the actual gospels. I will try to look for the liberating, compassionate, descending, loving, and hidden Jesus as I read the gospels. At the beginning, I wanted to find another reason for the cross than ‘Atonement.’ I now see the cross as the symbol of God who is willing to descend to us and suffer with us because He/She loves us. I still have lots of questions….but that is good. Shalom
    P.S. Thank you Ray for leading our discussion with beautifully written introductions and good questions. Blessings.

  3. As we await the empty tomb on Easter morning, a final thank you to all for joining us for our Lenten discussion of Letters to Marc About Jesus.

    I also want to thank Nadiia for sharing with us the good news about her mother’s perilous but successful Lenten journey from Ukraine to the United States. The efforts of Nadiia and her husband, and so many others, to help countless people to escape the dangers and horrors of the war in Ukraine are powerful reminders of the true meaning of suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, that we remember this weekend—and that Henri wrote about so movingly to his nephew Marc.

    And, as Henri’s favorite saint–St. Francis of Assisi—said to those he met: “May the Lord give you peace.”

    Ray Glennon

    1. Earlier this week, I received a newsletter from Yair Rosenberg (The Atlantic magazine) about about Passover is written from the Jewish perspective titled: Is ‘Passover’ Actually a Mistranslation? You can read it here. https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/deep-shtetl/625726dc9277230021b2b821/jewish-passover-translation-2022-history/

      I highly recommend the article because I think that it that it nicely complements our Lenten discussion. The article gave me a deeper understanding of Jesus’ life and the entire Gospel story, including Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection that we mark this weekend (in the western church). I’m confident that Henri would have been drawn to that author’s central point that “God will pass over the door” can (and maybe should) be rendered “God will be compassionate on your threshold.”

      May the compassion of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with you during this Easter season and throughout the year.


  4. Dear Ray & all,
    It was so good to read my favorite Henri Nouwen alongside you during this challenging time for my country, Ukraine. My husband & I managed to evacuate my mom from Kharkiv & bring her over here to the States through the Mexican border in Tijuana, where she got her humanitarian parole for one year together with other Ukrainians seeking shelter in the US. We also have helped many other people evacuate & reach safety, as well as sent humanitarian aid to those who stayed in Ukraine. Due to the enormous amount of things that we tried to do, I could not participate in our weekly discussions, but I read the Letter to Marc About Jesus & Ray’s introductions each week, so it was still quite nourishing. I am looking forward to our next online reading. Happy Easter!

    1. Thankful your mom is safe and other Ukrainians are able to come to the United States away from the Russian attacks there. Praying and hoping for peace. Your post touched me, Nadia, our hearts are broken to know all this violence is happening. Looking forward with you to our next online reading and know our Easter joy is because Jesus enters into the violence and suffering and brings the Ukrainians and all the world through.

    2. Nadiia,
      I am so thankful that you and your husband have safely evacuated your Mother and others. All the people of Ukraine have been in my heart and prayers since the beginning of this war. I cannot imagine their suffering. I too have sent humanitarian aid as the least that I know to do other than pray for their safety and peace. I feel a little more connected to Ukraine through you Nadiia. Thank you. May God bless your family with healing and peace.

    3. Dear Nadiia,
      Thank you for sharing your journey with us. You are very much in my heart and prayers. We discovered through Ancestry that my husband’s DNA is from that part of the world and he had a Great Grandmother from Odessa.
      I have a big Ukraine flag with the emblem flying in front of our house. It is beautiful and reminds me of the beauty of the Ukrainian people.
      We too have donated to humanitarian aid for people and animals there and I am praying daily…
      Blessings, Beth

  5. Thank you all! As has been the case in other years, I bit off more than I chewed regarding Lent, which only reinforces the need for focus and listening to Jesus, as Henri has suggested. While the Church year takes a new turn, the journey into faith (inward and lived out) continues. Blessings to you in this journey!

  6. Thank you Ray and to all of you. This study has been a gift and though I am not able to articulate in writing very well how this book has helped me, reading your comments has been underscoring so frequently what I too have on my heart.
    Wishing you all a Blessed and Hope-filled Easter season.

  7. I found this Lenten journey to be the most fruitful so far. I continue to struggle with the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection but have begun to move beyond ‘let’s talk about something else’ and work toward developing a ‘spiritual life.’ I have re-envisioned solitude as ‘time to spend with Jesus’ and am making space to listen to him, the Bible, and the Church.

  8. What a wonderful way to conclude this series of letters! Henri’s 3 steps are simple, but extremely helpful when applied correctly. Of the 3, I find that spiritual reading on a regular basis is possibly the most meaningful for me. Having done several of these Nouwen discussions now, I can honestly say that spiritual reading and discussion is indispensable to my peaceful and centered world view.

  9. The take away from this last Letter to Marc is on page 84 “Listen to your heart. It is there that Jesus speaks intimately to you. Praying is first and foremost listening to Jesus, who dwells in the very depth of your heart. . . . This listening must be and active and very attentive listening because Jesus voice can be drown out by this world.” The three way that Nouwen give to us the reader he says will ever-deepen our spiritual life. If we only take the time and stick to it. This is the good advice that I take away from Nouwen’s Letters to Marc.

  10. To me also, this last chapter is very, very important. I was especially challenged by reading Henri Nouwen’s warning, “i’m deeply convinced that the greatest spiritual danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the church.” Towards the end of the chapter, he writes about people having intimacy with Jesus that gives us courage to follow him even to places whether we would rather not go, adventure of love and not predictable but everything becomes possible. I sense a feeling that predictability is most comforting to a lot of people and it is too hard to risk for the love Jesus would lead us into. Still, I too, believe the prophetic Wisdom is in the Church. So somehow cling to the voices coming from the Church and constantly on the lookout for the spiritual reading and author mentors who will help me mine the scriptures ever more deeply. Henri Nouwen is one of these mentors and there are more, but it also takes a disciplined prayer life to be able to discern which voices to pay attention to to keep Jesus in the church. Heart speaking to heart. Reading and sharing on this Lenten journey with all the participants has been very timely to me and I am feeling more strengthened for the journey. Thank you for all your hard work leading the discussion, Ray. Blessed Holy Week, happy Easter.

  11. Thanks to all . The line on page 83 will stay with me. “ You and I are both called to be disciples of Jesus. The difference between us in age, circumstances, upbringing, and experience are small matters compared with the calling we have in common. Be attentive to the voice of God’s love and make a generous response.”What a great message ! Finding a way to unite with all humankind in our calling. Privately, quietly, listen to to the voice of Jesus in our heart.Respond generously. The master has need of this.

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