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Henri writes about the most famous person in the story: the younger son, the prodigal son. He says Rembrandt at a young age “had all the characteristics of the prodigal son: brash, self confident, spendthrift, sensual, and very arrogant”.

The artist earned a lot, spent a lot, and lost a lot. The painting is about the “return” of the lost son. In order to “return”, one must have left something behind.

Henri finds the concepts of leaving and returning very powerful. For Henri, “leaving” means spending our time and energy in the pursuit of success,material things, busyness and productivity. “Leaving” means not paying attention to the core of our being where God is waiting for us. Henri also admits he tried hard to please people and to be recognized, but he often felt jealous of others’ success or resentful when he did not get enough recognition .

Reflect on the picture of the younger son and put yourself in his place- Can you think of something for which you have not yet forgiven yourself?  How does our failure to accept God’s absolute forgiveness limit our understanding of God??


Please note- This reflection is taken from the 5 week Reading Group discussion booklet published by the Henri Nouwen society. Please click here to get a copy of this guide.



Please click here to view the details of The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

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