09/05/2006

The Return of the Prodigal Son

This is a fairly short book by the late Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest who spent some years pastoring a community for disabled people in Canada. He was inspired to write this book after many years studying and pondering on a painting by Rembrandt, depicting the return of the Prodigal Son.

The book is broadly divided into three sections, mirroring the author's spiritual journey. He thinks of himself first as the younger son, wanting to do his own thing, giving in to temptation, and finally returning. Then a friend points out that he's really more like the older son - not seriously rebelling, but being resentful that he does not receive enough recognition. So this becomes the second stage of his journey. Finally someone says that he is like the father, working as a priest and pastor, so the last section explores what it means to become more like Christ.

Quite thought-provoking, although I personally thought the author probably took more out of the painting that was meant to be there, and certainly more from what is basically a fairly simple paragraph. I was a little uncomfortable at times, too, when he talked about becoming God - although in context he seemed to mean becoming LIKE God, which I don't have a problem with.

Still, an interesting book and well worth reading.

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