By Henri JM Nouwen
In this book, Dutch Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen reflects on Rembrandt’s 17th century painting, “The Return of the Prodigal” and records his impressions for us.
The painting is based on the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The parable, mentioned in the context of two other parables in the Lukan Gospel, the lost sheep and the lost coin, is commonly used as an illustration of God the Father’s deep love for lost sinners returning to Him.
Nouwen’s book however, goes beyond an examination of the Father’s love for his once lost son. Captivated by the painting, Nouwen spent many hours gazing at it and reflecting on the meaning behind the characters in painting. In doing so, he looks back on his journey, making very deep and insightful reflections in identifying himself with both younger son and elder son. Following his reflections, the reader is left with how deeply God loves us and how many of us are like both the brothers at the same time.
This book comprises three sections (with three chapters each) on the younger (prodigal) son, the (judgmental) elder son and the (forgiving) father. It is written in the first person and is an intensely honest and personal sharing of Nouwen’s struggles and insecurities vis-a-vis the discussion of the parable and the painting. Comprising just 143 pages, it is a bestseller that has been translated into several languages and is well worth reading several times!
By Liu Hern Kuan, member of Treasure Trove Team