"The Return Of The Prodigal Son"

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Catholic priest and authour of several books, including The Wounded Healer, In the Name Of Jesus, and The Way Of The Heart. He taught at Yale and Harvard, then worked with the mentally challenged at L'Arche in Toronto, where he saw a poster of the Rembrandt painting that lends it's name to this book.

He was so moved by the painted figures and the emotions they expressed that he traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to see the original. Seeing things in it that he hadn't fully considered before led him into a lengthy study of the biblical story that inspired the painting, and what he learned he shares with us in this book.

This is not a book one can simply read and set aside - it demands more from the reader. It forces an inward examination, asking questions that will not be left unanswered. It will make you uncomfortable, but it will comfort you as well. Perhaps it's not so much a book, as it is an experience.

Nouwen gives thoughtful consideration to the three main characters in the painting - the prodigal son, the elder son and then the father - looking at each one's part in the story and how each person relates to the others. It's a very personal journey for Nouwen and is sure to affect each reader differently, but I will say that I saw something of myself (most of it not attractive) in all three of the primary characters and I'm aware that this is just the beginning. I read a borrowed copy, but I've ordered one of my own and hope to re-read it every year during Lent. There is so much in this book that is good and the author has a beautifully humble way of sharing it.

Three of my favourite passages:

"Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one."

"As the Beloved I can confront, console, admonish, and encourage without fear of rejection or need for affirmation....and receive praise without using it as proof of my goodness."

"I leave home every time I lose faith in the voice that calls me the Beloved and follow the voices that offer a great variety of ways to win the love I so much desire."

"The Return Of The Prodigal Son" is a good book, well worth reading, and then reading again.


Maria Behar said...

Rembrandt really captured the spirit of this, one of the most beautiful parables in the New Testament! I must definitely make the time to read this book, as well as ponder its message, which is a timeless one!

Thanks for a wonderful review, as well as a great recommendation!! :)

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