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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Becoming A Father

Henri Nouwen in his acclaimed book, The Return of the Prodigal Son ponders the questions raised by Jesus in His parable we call "The Prodigal Son." After years of lengthy contemplation of the younger son, the elder son and the original painting by Rembrandt, Nouwen sheds light on its meaning for us today …

“Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” [God’s compassion is not just for me to feel forgiven] he invites me to become like God and to show the same compassion to others as he is showing to me. If the only meaning of the story [The Prodigal Son] were that people sin, but God forgives, I could easily begin to think of my sin as a fine occasion for God to show me his forgiveness. [However] there would be no real challenge in such interpretation. I would resign myself to my weaknesses and keep hoping that God would eventually close his eyes to them and let me come home, whatever I did. Such … is not the message of the Gospels.

“What I am called to make true is that whether I see myself as the younger or elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father. I am an heir, [Paul says it clearly that if we are children, then we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ]. Indeed, as son and heir I am to become successor. I am destined to step into my Father’s place and offer to others the same compassion that he has offered me. The return to the Father is ultimately the challenge to become the Father.” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen, Image Books, Doubleday, New York, 1994, pg.123.)
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