Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Return of the Prodigal Son-Rembrandt
Both Robin and I have been reading some interesting spiritual books as we prepare for our upcoming pilgrimage from Le Puy en Velay to Santiago de Compostela next month. I still feel very connected to Thomas Merton, but of late I have become interested in the writings of  Henri Nouwen. Currently I am reading a book of his entitled, The Return of the Prodigal Son. While this is a very well known biblical parable Nouwen offers his readers a new and quite personal reflection on this story, and how it links to his own struggle to return to the Father "from a distant country." As I read this book I find myself examining my own struggles with the fragility of my faith, love of God, fleeing to a "distant country" and the subsequent long journey Home. What I have come to realize is that many of us are facing these same issues. We have lost track of God within us and have set out (left Home) to seek answers, and fulfillment in far away places. Perhaps His voice is just too faint to be heard over the noise of our daily lives. I know I frequently allow the commotion that attends my temporal pursuits to do that. It just seems I am conditioned to behave this way, despite the presence of a loving God in my life. But, the grace of the matter lies in the fact that God, like the father embracing his son in the painting, understands our flight, and patiently awaits our return as well.

So, Robin and I are off to the pilgrim road once again to embrace another part of our journey together. We will be leaving for France just after Easter, and plan to depart Le Puy on April 25th. We are ever thankful for the gift of each camino experience. They have always provided remarkable spiritual renewal and have positively shifted or displaced us from whatever misguided preconceptions we carried as excess baggage at the outset. We are eager to be underway again, and are hopeful that, as has happened in the past, sufficient moments of stillness and quietude will be found for us to hear the soft voice of the Father within us. Whenever we listen and respond to His voice, regardless of where we find ourselves, we find comfort that we are not lost; we are simply where we need to be.

Finally, less we should be lulled into thinking that the journey home to the Father is ever an easy quest, Henri Nouwen, an ordained priest, offers us, this reflection.

"It is the place within me where God has chosen to dwell. It is the place where I am held safe in the embrace of an all-loving Father who calls me by name and says, "You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests." It is the place where I can taste the joy and peace that are not of this world.

This place has always been there. I had always been aware of it as the source of grace. But I had not been able to enter it and truly live there. Jesus says, "Anyone who loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home in him."...

But it has aways been very hard to experience the truth of these words. Yes, God dwells in my innermost being, but how could I accept Jesus' call: "Make your home in me as I make mine in you"? The invitation is clear and unambiguous. To make my home where God had made his, this is the great spiritual challenge. It seemed an impossible task." 

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.

Peace be with you....

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