March 1st to 7th: The Younger Son

Reading:  Part I The Younger Son (p21 to 53)

Last week was an incredibly rich time of sharing and reflecting together.  Henri did a marvelous job of preparing us to enter more deeply into the parable, and this week we focus our attention on the younger son.  There is a lot to reflect upon in the text, so please feel free to share whatever comes up for you.

1)  Henri writes, “Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my beloved…’  Yet over and over I have left home… searching for love.” (p. 37, 39)
a) Is there a special place in your life that is “home” for you?  Are there times that you have been unable to “hear” God’s voice and have left home?
b) How and when did you hear the call to return?

2) “Even in the midst of his debasement, he had clung to the truth that he still was the son of his father… The sword was there to show me that, although he came back speaking as a beggar and an outcast, he had not forgotten that he still was the son of his father.  It was the remembered and valued sonship that finally persuaded him to turn back” (p42).
a) Is there a Bible verse, a symbol, something in nature, that is a reminder to you of your place as the Beloved child of God?  How can you keep it with you always?

3) Henri distinguishes between “a self-serving repentance that offers the possibility of survival” (p47) and a repentance that involves a breaking “away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrendering myself so absolutely to God’s love 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” (p 48).
a) How do you understand the difference between these two kinds of repentance?
b) Have you experienced the latter?  Can you share your experience with us?

4)  Henri calls the Beatitudes (Matt 5: 1-12) a self portrait of Jesus and says they “…offer me the simplest route for the journey home…”  (p 54) He then presents Jesus as becoming the prodigal son for our sake—a portrayal that goes beyond the traditional interpretation.  “The young man being embraced by the Father is no longer just one repentant sinner, but the whole of humanity returned to God.”  (p 58)
a) Does considering the Beatitudes as Jesus’ self portrait help you to better understand the Beatitudes? Jesus?
b) How do the Beatitudes point the way for humanity to follow Jesus and return to God?

We eagerly await your comments on these questions or anything else in the reading you would like to share  and we look forward to the gifts that will be revealed through each of you in the week ahead.

Ray and Brynn

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62 Responses to March 1st to 7th: The Younger Son

  1. Samantha says:

    As an adult adoptee, finding “home” in my Savior has been a journey.

  2. Bob Brittain says:

    I am so grateful for all your sharing of your faith/life journeys. I would like to tells those that especially touched me, how you did so and express my gratitude, however as you can see even my posting is late.

    This ‘younger son’ section has been a chapter of tears for me. As I mentioned in my introduction although I started to read The Return Of The Prodigal Son several years ago, I noted from my highlighting and notes, I never got beyond the first section of ‘The Younger Son Leaves’, (actually the first two pages). And then I chalked it up to the busy-ness of my life in those years.
    When I re-read these first pages describing what the younger son’s leaving meant I realized this was not about my busy-ness, it was possibly because it was so close to home. (interesting I should express it in this way ‘so close to home’).
    To clarify, when I recently cleaned out our attic, my wife found a letter I had written to our oldest son dated December 16, 1991 and at the time she suggested I should read it. Not knowing the contents, I told her to leave it for him to read after I passed.
    As I again re-read those same pages of the prodigal, I thought I should read the letter I had written to our oldest son and again, as it has several times since when I recall that unforgettable event, my heart broke and I wept for what I had caused.
    As I wrote in the letter “I don’t think I could bear the rejection”. I read the letter apologizing for how I behaved and for what I said, acknowledging I was to blame, and asking for undeserved forgiveness, I realized in the written letter, I was the ‘younger son’ begging for another chance from our 17 year old son, who was ‘the father’.
    The further tragedy was that I didn’t have the courage to give the letter to him.
    Six months later our son moved out of our home after he graduated. The result is a distant and strained relationship between him and my wife and I. Although he and I hug and say we love each other, we don’t know the ‘inside’ him and he doesn’t know us now. And the pain is present in my heart and the longing to know that he knows I do love him lingers. Like I said in my letter ‘I know some day you will forgive me in your heart because of the good person you are’. But my hurt and shame remains and I don’t know what remains in him. I hope he has forgiven me, but I don’t see signs of that.

    In sharing this with my wife, I have decided to ask the Lord to lead me in discerning the right time for our son to receive the letter, which I now know is not after my passing. I still carry in me the fear of our son’s rejection, and I don’t want to cause our son any more hurt.

    ‘Turn away from sin and return to the Gospel’ – the words sometime spoken when placing of ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday came to mind. This implies me ‘doing’, however what I read in this section is me being willing to surrender myself to receiving the unconditional forgiveness of God that is always present. We have lost 24 years of relationship with our son as a result of my inaction I pray for the Grace to be willing to surrender and to trust.


  3. Soni says:

    Home – Has been a elusive concept and a elusive place to me all my life. I did grow up in a physical home but my inner spiritual home seemed unattainable and I’ve tried to searched for and try to fill up need for being “OK” , being safe and being anchored at home inside. Not that I’ve led a pretty disastrous life, but my I tried to meet my yearning for finding that voice that tells me who I am – in being a “Good Girl” for God, performing, losing myself in friendships so the other can tell me who I am. Its only been a last few years that Jesus has been leading me to hear the Father’s voice which calls me “Beloved”. I don’t know if I still completely dwell in that place yet. I have moments and glimpses of being home.

    I like how Henri describes the self-serving repentance – that has been me and still is sometimes. I have to come to the Father before, but not just as I am without one plea and be fully, completely and unconditionally accepted..Oh what a freedom to do so – to just “be” in the kind embrace of my Father, pressing my worn head into his breast.

    John chapter 14 has come alive for me as I read the younger son’s return. I haven’t been left as an orphan, although I’ve felt like one and have lived like one most of my life. Jesus promises to not leave me as an orphan just as he promised his disciples. I can come home because Jesus came home before me – He is the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him.

    Psalm 84 has been a significant source of comfort and a picture of home for me in the last few years
    How Lovely is your dwelling place , O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns and even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the Living God.
    Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my kind and my God…

  4. Lloyd says:

    Sorry about being so near the end of the week in responding. I was truly amazed at your insights this week and especially taken with the words of Henri as I read and re-read this section.

    Q.1. I love the concept Henri details as home, where I am resting my head on the Father’s breast, and contently listening to His Heartbeat. I have found that home many times in Holy Communion.
    For me I also identify with what Henri writes on page 43, “I am a prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
    I have left “home” in search for additional love and acceptance (approval) that I thought I was not receiving. When I do this I am no longer listening to the loving words of the Father, I am no longer able to hear and distinguish His heartbeat. I am desperate in a distant land, chasing my own elusive dream.
    I only return after some time of searching for love and acceptance and failing to find it. Someone or something will show me the path back to the home I left.
    Q.2. Several years ago I received a gift of agape from some friends of mine that expressed the true value of the Fathers love. It was a small cloth blood drop that had my name on it. I have received this same gift several times, and I am still “blown away” each time. It says to me, that one drop of Christ’s blood had my name on it. T tells me of my worth and value as a son of the Father. I have these displayed where I see it each morning as I awake…to remind me of Home.
    Q.3. I think I can sum my response to this with a question I sometimes ask, “If there were no promise of afterlife (no Heaven or Hell), would you still follow Christ?” To me if I am only following for the reward then it is possible that this is “self-serving repentance”. If I am following out of gratitude and as a response to the grace I have received, I am then allowing God to be the God of healing, restoring and renewal.

  5. Ray Glennon says:

    Echoing Brynn’s words, “Truly my heart is full of gratitude for each of you – thank you for sharing. Indeed many gifts are being revealed here.” And for those of you journeying with us silently, we are glad you are here. It is a privilege and a joy to be a member of this spirit-filled community and we are blessed by the presence of all.

    I’m late to post this week, largely because this section about the Younger Son is very personal to me, some of which I shared last week in my response to Nancy O’s post of Feb 27th at 1:28 p.m. which I will not repeat here.

    Henri could have been talking about me when he writes about the younger son, “He was truly lost, and it was this complete lostness that brought him to his senses. He was shocked into the awareness of his utter alienation and suddenly understood that he had embarked on the road to death… he knew that one more step in the direction he was going would take him to self-destruction.” (p48) When I re-read this last week, I suddenly realized—more clearly than I did at the time—what I was really looking at from the outside balcony on the fifty-something floor of a hotel in Singapore. (Note: Was I ready to take that step at that instant? I don’t think so. Was I in lost and in despair about the life I was living? Absolutely!) Henri continues, “In that critical moment, what was it that allowed him to opt for life? It was the rediscovery of his deepest self.” And for me, that rediscovery took place at Mass in Singapore’s Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Even when living as the prodigal I always went to Mass—maybe at times hypocritically because of how I was living, but always knowing at the depth of my being that at Mass I was welcomed and at “home”, in spite of my sinfulness. That was about 10-½ years ago and it was upon leaving that Mass that I was led by the Holy Spirit and greatly blessed to find Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son on sale outside of the Cathedral. This book was my companion on the flight to the U.S. and was a critical factor in my returning to my true home–a “long and fatiguing trip,” supported by the guidance and encouragement of a wonderful Christian psychologist who walked with me through the darkness and into the light where I returned to the love of my five children who had never abandoned me. This May marks the tenth anniversary of my embrace by the Father after my journey home and, as you might expect, re-reading the book at this time is a cause for reflection—and, in my case, for deep thanksgiving for the love of the Father and of those who helped me to find my way home.

    Like Dr. Connie, music is one way that I “hear” the voice of the Lord speaking to me. This Wednesday night my wife Dawn and I went to a concert by the great American pop singer Barry Manilow on his One Last Time tour. (Highly recommended) When he sang “I Made It Though the Rain” ( I held my wife close and cried quietly as I recalled my journey home ten years ago—and I thanked and praised the Lord knowing that I couldn’t have done it by myself and that He was at my side. As another song puts it so beautifully, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” (Great Celtic Woman video here

    May the Lord give you peace.

  6. Joni says:

    As I read the last few pages of this Chapter on Thursday night, I was startled by Henri’s depiction of Jesus as the Prodigal Son. I’m sure I’ve read it before, but I was so anxious to gobble down the book when I read it the first time , I missed alot of the details.

    One of the many blessings of this Blog is taking it slowly, savoring each chapter, not rushing through to the finish.

    This image of Jesus as the Prodigal stayed in my thoughts all day on Friday and I just had to re-read it again today.

    Lord, help me to see and understand this parable from many new and different viewing points. Amen

  7. Ann says:

    I arrived in the United States last year at this time. First time moving far away from home (Asia) I found myself completely lost and empty. I had opportunity to join last year reflection. It was through last year sharing that God led me to a new perspectives of home – where I find love, peace, joy in His presence. Through Henri’s two books Hearts Speaks to Hearts and Making All Things New that I found a new relationship with Jesus Christ. I was renewed, restored and delivered from being trapped in the wilderness.

    I was liked the older son never understand the Father’s love until I leave home like the youngest son. I left my established career, ministry, family, friends and comfort. I was stripped off from everything – broken and lost like the youngest son. In the wilderness I felt the needs to return home to safe heaven.

    Ps: 23 is my favourite. The Lord is my Shepherd. Ps- 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; You fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. He is our awesome God.

    Thank you for the reflection and sharing. I enjoyed it very much.


  8. Antonio Mok says:

    Psalm 23 Yahweh is my Shepherd … my home, the house of Yahweh, as long as I live!

    I always know that I am the beloved, the Lord has always been kind to me and rescue me from time to time. But this only makes me feel that I am even more lost than the younger son, so resentful and so unforgiving an elder. It is recently that I hear a small voice, like a mild breeze through my heart, to call me return. I came from poor, or more accurately poverty. A Jesuit priest supported me and my brothers from dropping out of education since I was ten. Yet I was so simple and in peace at that time although I have nothing in material. This small voice is calling me to remember and to return to this simplicity. When I first look at the painting, I always wonder the Prodigal’s head is resting not at the Father’s shoulder or chest exactly, but somewhere between the chest and the loin. I guess, not sure, this is the return to the origin of life, that is what Henri described here rebirth. This is the repentance I need, to step down and return to the origin of life. I can, and thanks for Henri, understand more about Jesus and the salvation through the connection of the Beatitudes and the parable, today’s Gospel. Thanks for the opportunity for me to share. Peace with you!

    7th March 2015

  9. Deborah R says:

    What a gift to be able to slow down and reflect on Jesus’ words. An added gift is that of Henri’s interpretation of those words! This helps me go much deeper than I might on my own.
    The picture he drew of one realizing they are invisible and unimportant to those whom you thought you were connected to was a familiar one for me. I have been there, but not for long. The recognition, though faint that I am the Father child redeemed the scene and lifted my heart! How my heart breaks for those who have no idea of His unconditional love for them.
    I was also struck by the fact that the prodigal did, indeed, still have his sword, which symbolized his identity as the son of the a Father. He never entirely forgot who he was. I simply need to look back over my life at all the places that the Father faithfully met me and declared I am His to be assured that I still am His girl.
    Lastly, the thought came to me that returning to the Father requires no explanation, but simply a heart that seeks Him.
    I am grateful to be on this Lenten journey!

  10. Kikuko Hilbun says:

    Pharisees and Scribes who emphasized on keeping the laws are self serving repented? Henri repeats that repentance come from knowing of who we are, beloved sons of God. It seems that the elder son has problem with repentance and so I do! I identify myself with elder son who is lost in loving father home. Living with father, his heart is filled with complaining, resenting father not treating him justly. He feels that he never received what due to him. The elder son’s problem is not knowing Father’s love. Reading Henri’s book, I began to understand that loving and accepting self begin with believing in God’s love. As long as I do not know God’s love, I won’t be able to love myself. God loves me, God calls me “Belove.” So, I come before God with gratitude that God loves me, he calls me “Beloved” and I am heading to “Home”. Oh, God help me, how long, how long will it take that new me emerge? I am happy that Sr. Josephine’s transformation was so instance.

  11. Colette McGovern says:

    Hi Everyone,
    What a a wonderful time I had reading all your lovely posts.
    I really think that it is not about my worthiness but entirely about His Love.
    This is harder to live than one would expect!
    But let us “thank God together on our knees” for He really is crazy about us!

  12. Joni says:

    I answered question 1 a few days ago, but procrastinated a bit before sharing. I still feel like I have to take a deep breath as I start. Maybe by the end of this book discussion I will not need to do that any more! 🙂

    Henri writes”Home is the center of my being….can hear the voice..beloved..yet over and over I have left home…”
    a. Is there a special place that is ‘home’ for you?
    There have been many special places where I have experienced being home – prayer time in the desert, the mountains or the ocean often makes me feel that I am at home with my God and His world. My Pilgrimage to the Holy Land provided an experience of inner healing which truly re-created me into the heart of God. Sitting before Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist ALWAYS makes me feel that I’ve come home to the center of who I am.

    Are there times that you have been unable to “hear” God and have left home?
    Oh yes, more than I care to admit, actually! I have suffered for many years with what has been diagnosed as “seasonal depression.” Winter months (actually sometimes as early as mid-September) are a real challenge to stay focused on God’s love and not give in to a spirit of hopelessness and despair.

    b. How and when…call to return?
    Like Sr. Josephine, one thing I cling to during these times of desolation are short, quick prayers, the only kind I can muster, especially during long, sleepless nights. “Lord Jesus I trust in you” “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” etc. I think the power of these prayers helped carry me through when I had no strength of my own.

    This winter I heard the call to come home directly from a priest who noticed he hadn’t seen me at either daily or Sunday Mass for a”long, long time.” We were at a retirement luncheon for a mutual friend and he walked up to me, looked me straight in the eyes and asked: “how are you?” I am not a very good liar to begin with and was totally unable to lie to a priest–so I bowed my head, mumbled something inocuous, and moved away from him quickly!!! A few minutes later I ran into another priest (it was a Chaplains Farewll 🙂 ) who is also my Spiritual Director-he asked the same question, I just said: probably time for us to chat.
    We met the following week and had time for along catch up visit followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
    I KNEW I was Home again, and since that encounter I have had zero symptoms of depression and an overflowing of joy that is impacting every area of my life.
    This ‘coming home’ encounter was in mid-January, no way it could be considered the end of winter! I personally feel like it was/is the miracle of a Father’s love holding me close and reminding me daily that Iam safe, sound, and Loved…back in my Father’s house.

    Sorry this post is so long…still breathing!

    • Cheryl Rusche says:

      I loved your post – I believe that nothing happens by accident – you were in the right place at the right time, and your heart was ready to listen~

  13. Rodolfo says:

    A special place for me is more a state of the soul more than anything else. I suspect I have experienced periods of transformation, or as the author writes: “periods of divine love and mercy” at home. However, my life is a continuous struggle between hearing that gentle voice (“you are my beloved son”) vs. listening to the loud voices of this earth: hunger for status, concern about financial security, anger when becoming offended, resentment, arrogance, and principally lack of humility for defending a false ego.
    I believe that I am sometimes able to hear the call to return home usually during a state of nothingness, in solitude, and through a process of self-knowledge accompanied by faith.
    Jeremiah’s verse 31:33 is certainly a verse that reminds me about my place/ relationship with Christ. “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. This prophecy was fulfilled with Christ’s coming and dying in the cross, the cross that keeps me aware of the gate to home.
    The difference between a self-serving repentance and breaking away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God depends on where I put my hope. As Jeremiah writes our heart is full of twists, and God tests our heart because He expects full trust in Him.
    In my struggle with anxiety, it is not until I surrender myself to God that I experience the peace that only He could give. Therefore it requires from me to let go. This is a process that starts as small as the mustard seed of faith, and it requires patience and prayer.
    The articulation of the beatitudes by Christ is the expression of His full divinity while being fully human in order to show us the way to His Father.

  14. Dr Connie says:

    When I am drawn into moments of self-reproach and unworthiness, or other dark moments…I try to remember some music that I love.

    A few years back Casting Crowns produced a song.
    Maybe some of you know it.
    “Who am I ?”
    Not because of who I am …but because of what You’ve done
    Not because of what I have done…but because of who YOU ARE

    I AM YOURS….

    • Gilly B says:

      Thank you. That’s a good daily musical memo

    • Lynnell says:

      Dr Connie, Thanks for sharing the video. I really enjoyed it.

    • Sr.Josephine Berchmans FMM says:

      Thank you for the link.It is a hope filled song.
      How true are these words!
      Not because of who I am …but because of what You’ve done
      Not because of what I have done…but because of who YOU ARE

      Thanks again.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Dr. Connie,
      Thank you for sharing the music video. I was not familiar with it and it is wonderful. Because you shared it with us, we will be using this video on our parish Confirmation retreat next weekend. Thanks again.

  15. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Truly my heart is full of gratitude for each of you – thank you for sharing. Indeed many gifts are being revealed here.

    I’ve still been reflecting on last week’s reading… and particularly on the ways that I’ve seen God’s hand and grace upon my life. How he prepared the way for me, time and time again. How the experiences I’ve gone through can also minister to others.

    For many years I struggled with anxiety. In a sense my feelings of anxiety felt like a “leaving home.” It was as if “no one, not even God, can be trusted with this… I have to carry the burden and worry about it myself.” I really didn’t want to take that stance, I cried out many times for God to take the anxiety away… I was hoping for an instantaneous intervention. But He choose to let me walk the journey and learn how to come home. I’m still learning, and I’ve very grateful.

    Every time I was “away from home” in my anxiety I would turn to Matthew 10, 29-30: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” This verse was like the sword for me. I knew I wasn’t home yet, but I knew I had a place.

    Tiny birds out in nature tend to stir my heart. Especially in the winter I marvel at how they survive the cold… and sing none the less! They live because they are in the Father’s care.

    I know even in my weakness God’s heart stirs with love for me, and I am in his care. And He is my home.

  16. Jeanette says:

    Question 2: These are the verses I turn to when I need to be reminded I am God’s beloved.
    Psalm 18:19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. That God delights in me is sometimes so difficult for me to believe.

    Psalm 17:6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. The image of God wanting to listen so closely to what I have to say makes me feel cherished.

    Psalm 17:8 Guard me as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.

    Thanks to all of you. I am gaining much by reading all the posts.

  17. Joni says:

    Friends, last week I waited until Saturday to answer the questions…I was way too comfortable as an observer. My goal this week was to share more of myself, along with responding to the postings. Have already answered question#1 (write in my journal before posting) but decided to take the time to re-read all of our introductions, to become closer to those of you who post, and those sharing the journey by reading. It has taken me 3 days to get read all 208 Posts, but what a blessing it has been! Thank you Brynn for the way you have set this site up, allows us to go back and forth throughout the journey.
    Again I have to say THANK YOU to each of you. I am still excited to continue this study, hoping for the courage to take it to ever deeper levels as Henri has done through this and all of his writings.
    Re-reading the intros has been like another little Homecoming.
    A couple of snippets from Intros that inspire me to continue to share myself:
    C. Kay Fuino -18 Feb-“sometimes we are in more than one role in the same day.” Today at Mass I was thinking about how I can be each of the characters every day! 🙂
    Pam J -“…revisiting books over time can lead to a renewed and deeper understanding.” That it my prayer for all of us on this Blog.
    Marisa- “Blown away by his honest and thoughtful words .”. My reaction to so many of Henri’s writings. My gut reaction when I began re-reading last week.
    Candace- HN’s spiritually spoke to me many years ago-his great vulnerability inspired me greatly.”. Me too, I pray for the grace to continue to be vulnerable here with all of you. Amen

    • Marilyn Magers says:

      A major opening for me came in Henri’s struggle with his lifetime of becoming and being a very perceptive and helpful! participant-as-observant-bystander: just to see this named and to follow his struggle with his call to serve in l’Arche is humbling. We can catch ourselves moving aside and back, tempted to detach. But this too is part of who we are, even, it now occurs to me, part of our identities as members of God’s household. In and around this picture are servants, a mother? maybe sisters? whose roles in the culture of that story and picture are always at best secondary…designated observers? Time now for me to go back into the book, and meditate, listen, perhaps as one of those others?

  18. Dr Connie says:


    Henri offers so many beautiful insights, and I am touched also by the sharing of the group. There is so much to say…..I hardly know where to begin. I know that we can all relate to this young man, as Henri says it is a summary of our salvation history…the whole of humanity returning to God ( p.58). Wow.

    Twyla- thank you for the beautiful sharing.

    And on the topic of claiming our Belovedness, oh…it is choice to do so…isn’t it?
    When we hear the voices of the world calling us other things, and when we believe that we are other things…we claim and claim again who we are.

    There are pleanty of times that I get caught up in those voices, and then there are some times when I remember “who I am” and I remember to claim my identity in him.

    Those times make all the difference.

    For the younger son, he never quiet forgot his sonship- the possession of the sword, the mark of his nobility still. We are marked for Him, with an indelible mark, through our baptism, through our choice to follow him, may we be reminded as the son never forgot. Henri pointed out the differnce between Peter and Judas, who “sold the sword of his sonship” whereas Peter claimed it (p50)

    May we all -never forget to claim that we are the Beloved, especially in moments of despair.

    On pg. 53 Henri mentions a distorted God image- picturing God as a harsh judge.
    I wanted to pass something on to the group that might be helpful when the problem is that we know who God is in concept, but there is a distortion with the God image.

    I have a friend Dr. Ted Witzig who is a psychologist and Pastor- who did a terrific job on looking at the distortions in the God image. It might be worth looking at.
    One can see differences between God concept and distorted God images.
    There is also a book
    Distorted Images of God: Restoring Our Vision (Lifeguide Bible Studies) Paperback –
    by Dale Ryan (Author), Juanita Ryan (Author)

    God Bless.

  19. Sr.Josephine Berchmans FMM says:

    Q:3 – Henri himself offers the word to explain the first type of repentance – ” survival”. In my understanding it is “pretending to be repentant”; an outward gesture. while the later is genuine, total and a grace. In the first we have some sense of control; The “I” is very much there; I have taken the initiative; I can bring in the healing through my efforts; the center is not God. Whereas in the later,I am a broken( spirit and heart), an empty vessel ready to receive the unmerited forgiveness that God is waiting to pour in. When I am at my wits end not knowing how to get the healing, acknowledge my helplessness thereby showing my willingness to let God be God, the miracle happens.
    Yes, I have experienced the later. But I am hesitant even a bit afraid that I will not find the right words to explain my experience.
    Two years ago – on 17th February 2013 – I had a stroke which left my right side completely paralyzed. I had a major brain surgery 34 years ago that had left my left side paralyzed. ( over the years I managed to do everything since my right side was good and that supported the uncoordinated left side!)This time around however, both the sides collapsed and I became bed ridden.I needed round the clock assistance and regular physiotherapy I was hospitalized where I remained till this February.There was a lot of resentment at God, some people. I was angry, short tempered and most of the time feeling lost, helpless and wanting to be left alone. I used to cry a lot, as that seems to be only thing that I could freely do. I don’t know how to put in words what I went through during one and half years. At one point I could not even pray. I was told to just say some ejaculatory prayers. In my total helplessness I began to realize or accept that I cannot heal myself. I used to say the Jesus prayer(Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a poor sinner) almost constantly. I do not know when exactly or how it happened, but one fine morning I woke up feeling grateful. Resentment and anger at God and people were replaced by gratitude. I felt loved and accepted. I felt as if God the Father was telling me not to bother about anything- my handicap, my outbursts, anger or whatever. God’s healing and forgiveness was overtaking me. I knew that I was healed by God when I could look at the same people, whom I found fault with once, with love and gratitude. I was becoming loving, compassionate and accepting of others.
    I did nothing to deserve this forgiveness and healing. God did “all the healing, restoring, and renewing” . All praise and thanks be to God.

    • Joni says:

      Sr. Josephine, thank you so much for your sharing, it brings me a sense of hope. Your physical challenges are so beyond my own internal struggles. Your experience encourages me to perseverse in prayer and learning to surrender all to God’s love, and His timing…and peace will come.

      I unite my heart to your heart. God Bless!

    • Elaine says:

      Sister, we are blessed to have the benefit of your experience and wisdom in this blog. Thank you.

    • Judith Bacon says:

      Thank you for finding God’s spark of joy within yourself.
      As a quadriplegic for over 70 years, I found many years ago that anger and bitterness accomplish nothing. Through the grace of God I have been able to experience love and joy and so much more. I am truly blessed. As an old polio I look forward to increasing paralysis, back to the original paralysis at age 3, when my entire body was paralyzed. Yes, it scares me. Such as how will I live? Who will take care of me? I do know that God has been with me and taken care of me my entire life. I am awaiting his sign as to which way I should go. Nursing home? Hire 24 hour care in my home until the money runs out? Who knows. God knows and I will follow his lead.

      • Sr.Josephine Berchmans FMM says:

        Judith, you are indeed the beloved of God. Your words – despite extreme physical challenges -” Through the grace of God I have been able to experience love and joy and so much more. I am truly blessed” , humbles me. What faith! Surely the Lord will lead you Today I prayed for you in a special way. May you be strengthened in your inner self.May God’s never failing love envelop you always!

        • Joni says:

          Judith, I too prayed for you today, that you will hear that still small voice within to help guide you to where you go next on your journey.

          Your physical challenges are so much more than I can imagine, I am humbled by your witness and fed by your great faith. You will remain in my heart and in my prayers. God Bless.

        • Judith Bacon says:

          Thank you so much!

  20. Rose says:

    Joni, thank you for your comment “God is not asking if you are worthy, but he is asking if you are WILLING . . . .” and your statement that you have come to focus more intentionally on God’s love than on your worthiness to receive it.

    Sometimes I wonder whether I might be “trusting God” blithely, too easily, perhaps “trusting God” to intervene in a situation that would benefit from one or more proactive steps I could–and should–take. God does not need me in order to act but perhaps God is best pleased when I earnestly seek to partner with God in my concern for others.


  21. Gerry August says:

    I’m grateful for the meditations and comments. I read the Wounded Healer many years ago, and life intervened. I’m a retired nurse living in Central Arkansas, (yea/Ha) after much of my life in Chicago, IL. I was very moved during a video of Henri giving a sermon on being the Beloved. My past family experiences have caused me to spend much time trying to grasp and heal the concept of a loving father. I have better success with Spirit and grace. Therefore, I was initially reluctant to read coming home/and the Prodigal Son. I received a copy yesterday after a long wait. God does have a sense of humor, because so much of what I read has been presenting itself in my daily life.
    Before the books arrived, I was meditating on psalm 116:9: I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
    thoughts: God loves life! all creation. I asked: Are You standing or sitting before me as I approach you? Are You smiling? happy to be present in Your Creation, knowing it is good. I’m happy to come before you. Can I kneel and place my head on your knees, or will You stand and with open arms embrace me, so that I can place my head over Your heart and hear its music?
    thoughts on picture, father asking for a robe and sandals to be given to his returning son. I take it to mean, the son/me has a long journey ahead.
    Thank you for a sharing community. I have missed such a forum.

  22. Marilyn Magers says:

    Special thanks to Pamela!

  23. Marilyn Magers says:

    Thanks, everyone! These last notes about being/not being “worthy” are helping me to articulate something that has bothered me about that word, what it signifies that distorts everything. It turns relationships, selves, into commodities with price tags, matters to be settled with thumbs-up or thumbs-down judgments. For me the whole point of the gospel is that such judgments are not God’s way.

  24. Clarence says:

    Question # 2 elicits the deepest response from my spirit. I grew up in a loving Christian home where on Sunday morning, before we left for church, we observed the family altar. In that kitchen all six of us were on our knees while mom and dad took turns reading scripture and praying their way around the world (how boring at times for me as a kid!). But what warmth, strength and love emanate from that place to this day. When as an adolescent I wanted to rebel against the confinements of home, it was the reality of my identity as the child of my parents, and a felt need to ‘make them proud’, that restrained me from wandering too far. A few places serve to remind me today of my beloved-ness. One is my place of solitude (whether sitting in my favourite chair at home or on my sacred rock on the side of Stone Mountain Georgia), and the other is at the Lord’s Table where I intentionally enter into the deep significance of my communion with God, in the communion of saints present and departed.
    In a previous post I mentioned our son who died unexpectedly at the age of 24. A few years before his passing, when our relationship was strained due to my lack of understanding and his own rituals of distancing, I reminded him of his true identity that was wrapped up in the name we gave him at birth – JON – beloved of God; and that nothing could ever change that identity or the depth of our love. It was that reassurance, and his own acute pain, that eventually brought him back to our full embrace and the embrace of the Father.
    This image of our true identity as a beloved child of the Father profoundly impacts the way we approach our investment in the lives of our three grandchildren. Our journey of raising our own two boys informs our view of family life as a collective journey of finding, embracing and living in the confidence of our individual beloved-ness.
    Thank you to those who have posted thus far this week. Your comments bless me.

  25. Sr.Josephine Berchmans FMM says:

    Q.2: The Scripture Verse that reminds me that I am a beloved child of God is Deuteronomy 32:11
    -“Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions.” The Father is always there; he pushes me out of my comfort zone, out my pretenses, my seeming sure-footedness, only to watch over me lest I fall in my own wantonness and waywardness. I am his child and he will let no harm come upon me.
    I have a few things in nature that keeps me rooted in his love: whenever I see an eagle soaring high…; wild flowers dancing in the wind and little sparrows flying without a care.
    Matthew 6:26
    Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
    Mathew 10:29
    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
    I have two favorite hymns that I keep singing to remind me constantly that I am his beloved child. one is Michael Joncas’ I have carried you on Eagles wings and another is a Tamil hymn based on Mathew’s verses.
    I have these words also in small bookmarks which I carry around.

    • Clarence says:

      Thank you Josephine, your reflection reminds me of the eagles that soar over Stone Mountain, Georgia. How often I have sat for hours studying their patterns of effortless flight, and thinking how God supports, undergirds and raises me up so that I can stand and withstand… “All nature sings, and ’round me rings the music of the spheres – this is my Father’s world”!

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      These verses you shared from Matthew have always been really special to me as well. Thanks for sharing them!

  26. I’m not familiar with using words like sin or guilt in relation to spiritual development, although I can see that in a certain context this has become a matter of speaking, not only symbolically,but sometimes (too) literally. This week, pondering on this weeks chapter and the related questions, a thought passed my mind whether all of the (my) inner conflicts and struggle can be seen as efforts to relate in some way to an image of an unknown God. I came to think that all along it all is part of a bigger story, about an inner journey away from and returning to God. I am convinced that this journey is a neverending journey, but I have experienced that the inner journey may become more peaceful, as soon as I learned to travel with my soul and let him be my consciousness and guide. I remember once being in a theater where the seven Cross Words were given form by dancers and musicians (Gubaidulina as composer), and I shed tears hearing the words “Eli, eli lama sabachtani”, My God why have you left me. At that moment I somehow understood something of the deep dark and lonely moments of being without God. It was then that my journey changed from outbound to homebound. Instead of traveling blind, my eyes were opened. I am still traveling, knowing that the purpose of my traveling is becoming aware that each voice (soul’s voice) is needed to take part in the sound of all voices. This community is such a great example how it sounds when day by day, hour by hour, another voice joins the group. Each in his or her own way, but together I imagine it is heard, somewhere, as one voice.

    • Bob Brittain says:

      “…the purpose of my traveling is becoming aware that each voice (soul’s voice) is needed to take part in the sound of all voices. This community is such a great example how it sounds when day by day, hour by hour, another voice joins the group. Each in his or her own way, but together I imagine it is heard, somewhere, as one voice.”
      Thank you Janna.
      What an absolutely beautiful expression of this community of ‘strangers’ from around the world and around the corner, who are becoming anything but strangers through our intimate sharing of our lives and our faith journey through Henri’s life and his writings. Your words keep rolling around in my head and stirs in me me great hope for humanity. Thanks to all of you for your unique and unifying voice.

  27. Twyla says:

    Thank you to all of you….. I am gaining lots of spiritual insight from your posts.

  28. Kim Klein says:

    I am aware of the 2 different levels of repentance as I have lived both. The first confession of faith in my Lord Jesus was in high school at a Young Life camp. Something changed in Me at that time I know because priorities and friends began to change and I was more content. But over time I did not feel God was hearing my prayers and I did not understand this power of God others had access to.

    Finally, at 55, I have come to understand that full giving over of my self will to God for His sake and for my healing from addiction. Giving up my idol addiction has finally opened the floodgates of Gods power and love through my life. The self still screams to take over but, God willing, I will never go back to that madness of my own will and the mess it got me into. His peace and the connectedness I feel to my family and friends and life now are unreal!

    Henri Nouwen has helped me put words to my amazing experience. Sometimes I feel like I AM Henri Nouwen…

  29. Don Noble says:

    There is a place where I return home. It Is in Communion or Eucharist. It Iis there that I feel the love and acceptance that the love of God offers in forgiveness. It Is in this sacrament that the remembrance of the love of God comes in a tangible form.

    I fail to be at home when I do not make a heartfelt confession of my sin; my wondering in the far country. Yet I am accepted; called the beloved once more inspite of my failures. My failures, like those of Nouwwen’s, are when I look to the world for validation as beloved.

    Yet it is my baptism that reminds me that I am one with Jesus. When I see the font I remember that “in life, in death, in life beyond death I am one with Him. Perhaps this is why the image of Jesus as the younger son is so powerful to me.

    And so repentance to me is not about being ” saved””; that was done 2000 years ago. To me repentance is about surrender of self, of ego and embracing the love God has for me. It is understanding that I cannot do this on my own ; the idea of ” saving myself” is ridiculous to me.

    So it comes down to the beatitudes. To live in the humility and the challenge of these scriptures is a daily challenge. It is only through the community of Christians where I worship that I have the strength to live such a life; even though I fail.

    • Elaine says:

      Don, I so agree that it comes down to the beatitudes, which provide a kind of further explication of the two great commandments. Virtually every major religion of the world expresses these same essential guidelines for a moral life, yet their followers–and leaders–too often get hung up in dogma or legalisms.

      In our Advent blog, someone suggested that we draft a kind of mission statement for ourselves. It might be an interesting and productive spiritual exercise to use the beatitudes as the basis for such a statement.

      • Joni says:

        Don, Elaine, very interesting to me that you mention the Beatitudes. I had some time on Sunday to read and ponder on John 15:11-17. One of the things that came to me as I journalled about the readings, was that the Beatitudes were like a Blueprint or game plan to teach us how to live out His command to love one another.

        I am experiencing your posts as confirmation that this indeed a message from Abba to re-look at this beautiful scripture and incorporate them in my daily life. Thanks!

  30. Judith Bacon says:

    In answer to question #2 – I have a special scripture reminder that I am a Beloved Child of God. Some years ago when I came upon a verse stating,
    “The Lord is My Strength and My Song,”
    I knew this was my motto. This statement is found in Exodus 15: 2, Psalm 118: 14, and Isaiah 12: 2. (NIV)

    I so much wanted to keep this reminder close to me, that I designed a bookmark stating this and giving the scripture references. I have also given this bookmark to many people I felt were in need of it at the time. It has been such a blessing. As a quadriplegic, the Lord is definitely my strength. I have so little strength, but He continues to provide what I need. And He gives me so much joy as I sing songs of praise. He is my reason for being.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Thank you so much for sharing. You say you have little strength, yet you have lifted this community with a tremendous blessing.
      May the Lord give you peace.

  31. Nancy says:

    regarding repentance:

    We are all in that state of disgrace at almost any point in time when as members of the human race, we have offended others by thought, word or deed.

    My disgrace, or need for apology, can be as simple an offense as speaking at the wrong time or place, or speaking thoughtlessly to another. Or it can be grievous, so grievous that words cannot brought forth to ask for forgiveness from another.

    A self-serving repentance of saying “I’m sorry” is sometimes said when one is not at all ashamed or repentant of an act or deed. As in “I am sorry if (insert action) offended you.” Perhaps I have said “I am sorry that I do not care to watch that violent television show,” which is in no way an apology, merely a fact stated. Or if I say “I am sorry to bring this up, but…” and then I state my self-righteous opinion.

    Neither instance shows that I am sorry for what I said, but “sorry” that you might offended by it. One could hardly term that an apology, just an acknowledgement of the others’ misinterpretation of my words. And how many times have I done that? Too many, the answer. That type “apology,” if it can be termed as such, merely allows me to go one with social convention, continuing with a conversation.

    But when I am truly sorry, certainly asking forgiveness, is much more difficult a task. It is so onerous a task that to even dredge up an instance brings me embarrassment, perhaps shame. This type of asking for forgiveness is often only asked of God, in the dark secretiveness of the prayer closet. A sincere prayer, breaking away from rebellion against God, is heart wrenching in its truthfulness, and brings forth a new person, forgiven and free to live a different life. This type of honesty with God and seeking of forgiveness and a new life brought me to a new relationship with Him after a painful marital divorce.

    My prayer during this Lenten season is that my talks with my God are ones that bring me further toward His grace, being renewed with restoration, healing and strength.

  32. Bill Helsley says:

    Question #3. I didn’t make my first communion until age 15. After going to confession for awhile, I realized that my act of contrition was more about saving me and not my soul. Nor did it do much to bring me closer to God. I began to feel that I would never be free of sin and went my way.

    It was not until I was in my late 30’s that I realized I would always be a sinner and that God was truly a forgiving Father.

  33. Bill Helsley says:

    There is a place for me that is “home”. Upon completion of re-hab in 1969 I was introduced to a small group that had been together for twent years. Afte much nurturing from these folks I began to open up.

    Since I traveled a lot and wasn’t going to hang out in bars any more it began reading as an alternative. I bought books from a Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Old Orchard Shopping center.

    There was a book seller there by the name of Ann Brill, whom I affectionately called “Ma Brill”. Ma would look after and tell me “no, not that one” Which would usually be followed by a recommendation .

    Once she directed me to a book titled “Hadrian’s Memoirs”. Early on Hadrian notes that all Roman Emperor’s traditionally were born in Rome. He then begins to discuss his child and the little town where he grew up. Then Hadrian’s notes none of this really maters as a man’s true birthplace is that spot where he first looks intelligently upon himself.

    Instantly, I realized that place for me was with my home group and that these were my family in this new life I had chosen.

  34. Twyla says:

    Question #3. This one hits “home” DEEPLY for me. Henri’s spiritual insightfulness deeply penetrates the heart when he says : “One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s Forgiveness.” AMEN to that.
    My human weakness is to without even always realizing it….is to receive Our Lord’s Forgiveness like a bandage over a nasty wound…. And not receive Jesus forgiveness like it really IS…. A total erasing of the wound…. A being made brand new and totally clean, completely forgiven.
    Forgiveness is not merely a bandage on top of an ugly wound that is still hiding under it…
    Rather, it is Our Lord erasing the ugly wound in the first place.
    No bandage needed after that…. The sin IS erased and gone now.

    Easy to type…harder to really receive completely and fully.
    I find myself repenting and then repenting over & over again…. Did I say I am sorry enough ? Well, was I REALLY sorry in the first place…Oh, I knew it was wrong…. But didn’t I have fun engaging it that sin ?
    And frankly, these thoughts go through my mind confessing any type of sin… Uncharitable thoughts & words…. Good actions on the outside but unkind attitude on the inside while doing it, Committing Acts of Kindness, and frankly being too thrilled with myself for doing them…. As well as sincerely and honestly just messing up.
    the list goes on.

    Finally, after much prayer over the years as well as listening to Our Lord…..
    Reading Henri’s books, the Bible etc….
    I have come to this to try to more FULLY receive Jesus forgiveness, restoration, and being made whole & new…..
    When I find myself in this cycle I pray…. Jesus, I am sorry for ( fill in the blank), I am sorry that I wanted to sin and that I frankly enjoyed it SO MUCH, I am sorry for not being sorry enough, and I repent for any self serving repentance reasons that I am repenting in the first place…. Please forgive me… And help me to FULLY receive YOUR Holy Cleansing, healing and Forgiveness & not just a spiritual bandage which still leaves me with shame and guilt, afterall, who really looks good or healed with a bandage on right ? 🙂

    Henri is so Right On when he says over & over how important it is to know our true identity as the BELOVED Child of GOD, laying claim to our FULL dignity.
    YES…. For then, I can better give it out to OTHERS….. And do MY Royal Duty for My Heavenly Father and help to bring HIS love, dignity and restoration to OTHERS. I can now bring The Sweet Aroma of Jesus into a place, instead of the smell of the pig trough or a gawdy cheap perfume that is overly splashed on to cover up a bad smell…. ( like a bandage over a stinking wound).
    I want to receive the finest, perfume, and deepest love and cleansing and forgiveness and then…. SPLASH THAT AROUND, ALL OVER THE PLACE ~!! To say THANK YOU MY Father in Heaven. THANK YOU ~!!

    • Pamela Renner says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

    • Sr.Josephine Berchmans FMM says:

      Thanks for your sharing.The struggle you expressed is our common struggle. The Father knows our weakness and embraces with his compassionate and unconditional love. ALWAYS, EVERYWHERE AND AT ALL TIMES. Along with you, I thank the Father for that. Amen.

    • Elaine says:

      Thank you, Twyla, for your honest and articulate expression of the moral dilemma faced by so many of us. Your description of the “bandage on top of the ugly wound” is so apt. When we profess sorrow for sin but then sin again, are we, as you say, “sorry enough”? Is such sorrow merely “self-serving”?

      I have spent years pondering–and worrying about– the questions you raise. A wise priest told me more than once that God cares only about the present, not past transgressions that I cannot undo, but only learn from. Stewing about the past is a waste of energy and brain power unless it is an impetus to change. Does an inability to fully accept the idea that God understands and forgives indicate a lack of faith on my part? It is hard to wrap my mind around the idea that God is THAT forgiving and that I, with all my imperfections, am the Beloved. I wonder if part of my “challenge to receive God’s forgiveness” (Henri’s phrasing) stems from depictions of a harsh, just God given to me as a very young child or from my inability to reconcile the harshest scripture verses with the more compelling picture of the forgiving father in the parable we are studying now. I am grateful for the wise people in this blog who are helping me to sort all of this out.

  35. Stuart Dimock says:

    Hello again all,

    I have been dwelling on the heart of question 1 for two years now. I don’t want to be long winded here. Let me just say that there are times when I “know” I am the beloved child of God on whom His favor rests and there are many other times when I cry out “Where are you Father?” I feel I am still outside the City of God sometimes sitting in the field on the hills just observing the new Jerusalem in all of its splendor, but not stepping out on the road to go inside.

    I need to get in touch with those moments of belovedness and either rearrange myself or allow Jesus to do some major reconstruction to make those the center of my being. I want to come ‘home’. I’m just too scared, too blind, too self-absorbed, too petulant, too proud, too vain, to ‘know’ the way.

    I want to rearrange my first principles, what I know to be true when my feet hit the carpet in the morning, to be that “I am the beloved child of God. On you My favor rests”. When that becomes a reality, I will know, really know, that I am HOME.

    Grace and Peace,


    • Doris says:

      I know I am a beloved child of God – but His favor does not always rest on me. Why? Sometimes along the path of life self takes over – and it is then I am off the path. When this happens I know that the path I have taken is wrong, so I call to my Heavenly Father for forgiveness and love is back. Sometimes it is hard to keep on the path so we dig into the word and ask for the Father to help us. I believe I am more like the prodigal’s brother, I want to stay home with the Father, but get off the track because of “my way”. So I come to my Heavenly Father and talk to Him in contemplative prayer, thanking Him for His patience and as I read the word and pray His presence draws me closer to Him. I leave behind the self life, the grief of being stubborn and wanting to do it my way. He forgives and I hold the Father’s hand not because of myself – but because of His love for me.

    • Pamela Renner says:

      I know my struggle is that I feel unworthy…Jesus tells us that we ARE worthy,
      So what voice AM I listening to?

      • Joni says:

        Pamela, I know that the “I am not worthy” attitude has been a big part of my struggles for inner peace and I would suspect many of us on this Blog have dealt with this.

        A million years ago, when I was young, A VERY wise priest would remind me more than once: “Joni, God is not asking if you are worthy, but he is asking if you are WILLING….” whether it’s willing to step out in faith, share my three fish, believe in His love or accept His forgivemess…in so many situations I have come to realize that it is so much more about my willingness to trust in God’s love than my worthiness to receive it.

        • Jan greene says:

          That unworthy thought seems to have stuck to me from childhood! Your nice substitution of ‘willing’ strips away shame and makes me vulnerable enough to receive and know God’s love for me. I think we come and go in that awareness and return again and again! All of your comments are so helpful and healing! Thank you.

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