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The Return of the Prodigal Son

A Story of Homecoming

by Henri J. M. Nouwen

A chance encounter with a repro­duc­tion of Rem­brandt’s The Return of the Prodi­gal Son cat­a­pult­ed Hen­ri Nouwen on a long spir­i­tu­al adven­ture. Here he shares the deeply per­son­al and res­o­nant med­i­ta­tion that led him to dis­cov­er the place with­in where God has cho­sen to dwell. Nouwen probes the sev­er­al move­ments of the para­ble: the younger son’s return, the father’s restora­tion of son­ship, the elder son’s venge­ful­ness, and the father’s com­pas­sion. The chal­lenge to love as the father and be loved as the son is seen as the ulti­mate rev­e­la­tion of the para­ble known to Chris­tians through­out time, and here rep­re­sent­ed with a vig­or and pow­er fresh for our times.



The Return of the Prodi­gal Son: A Sto­ry of Home­com­ing is a spir­i­tu­al adven­ture sto­ry. A chance encounter with a poster depict­ing a detail of Rem­brandt’s The Return of the Prodi­gal Son set in motion a chain of events that enabled Nouwen to rede­fine and claim his voca­tion late in his life. In this book, which inter­weaves ele­ments of art his­to­ry, mem­oir, Midrash, and self-help, Nouwen brings the para­ble to life with empath­ic analy­ses of each char­ac­ter. Nouwen’s absorp­tion in the sto­ry (and the paint­ing) is so com­plete that the father’s chal­lenge to love the son, and the son’s chal­lenge to receive that love, become Nouwen’s own. And Nouwen’s writ­ing is so clear and his tone is so appeal­ing­ly frank and hum­ble that read­ers – no mat­ter how far from home – will find hope for them­selves in the prodi­gal peace Nouwen ulti­mate­ly achieves.
Michael Joseph Gross

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