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Publisher's Summary

This powerful meditation illuminates the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke's Gospel. Nouwen discovers anew the reality that God's love is unconditional and shares his own spiritual journey with us.

In this audiobook, Nouwen shares his own experience as the wayward son as well as the vengeful older brother and the compassionate father. He speaks to all who have known loneliness, dejection, jealousy, or anger, and invites us to homecoming, affirmation, and reconciliation.

©1992 Henri J.M. Nouwen (P)2005 St. Anthony Messenger Press

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Are You the Younger or Older Brother?


Most people who read this review will be familiar with the parable of “The
Prodigal Son” - sometimes translated as “The Lost Son” - to be found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 15. Jesus is delivering a stinging rebuke to
the Pharisees and Scribes for accusing Him of receiving sinners and eating
with them. In verses 11-32, He tells one of the most compassionate stories in the Bible. (Parables were allegorical stories that a mostly illiterate populace could easily understand.)

In brief, the story tells of the younger son in a family who demands his inheritance from his father. (Compare Deuteronomy 21:17.) This son leaves for a distant land, where he squanders all in debauchery, has to take up the work of herding swine, and is even reduced to hungering for the food of swine. He finally comes to his senses and decides to return home, if only to work for his father as a hired laborer. As he nears home, his father takes the positive step of welcoming him, even holding a feast. The older brother, who had remained at home working, resents the mercy shown. But the father says that they should rejoice because the son who was dead now lives.

In The Return of the Prodigal Son: a Story of Homecoming, Nouwen develops a chance encounter with Rembrandt’s magnificent painting of the same title into a personal spiritual odyssey. Inspired by the painting (he spent four days seated in front of the original in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage), he skillfully dissects each section of the powerful gospel drama in the light of his own life journey.

As the painting took on a personal resonance, he began to see in it the heart of the story that God wanted to tell him. The Prodigal Son became for Nouwen a mysterious window that exposed the kingdom of God in an intimate way. He was now able to see the fallen world through the eyes of God’s redeeming love… God as our forgiving Father. This introspection, as he pondered Rembrandt’s portrayal, eventually led him to living with and ministering to the mentally disabled.

He taught that it takes enormous energy to keep saying "no" to the world’s powers. Our hope lies in finding something so real and attractive that we can devote all our energies to saying "yes." That "something" is the fact that God continues to love us unconditionally, even in our brokenness….our addiction.

Nouwen explains:

“Addiction" might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates society. Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world's delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in 'the distant country,' leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father's home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in ‘a distant country.’ It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.”

Nouwen invites believers to enter a deep, internal relationship with Jesus Christ where inner healing and disposal of psychological and emotional baggage are confessed as liberation.

In another part of the book, he relates:

“Each little step toward the center seemed like an impossible demand, a demand requiring me to let go one more time from wanting to be in control, to give up one more time the desire to predict life, to die one more time to the fear of not knowing where it all will lead, and to surrender one more time to a love that knows no limits.... I would never be able to live the great commandment to love without allowing myself to be loved without conditions or prerequisites.

“Herein lies the essence of the gospel: God is for us! It confronts us with the fact that… truly accepting love, forgiveness, and healing is often much harder than giving it. It is the place beyond earning, deserving, and rewarding. It is the place of surrender and complete trust."

The Return of the Prodigal Son: a Story of Homecoming expresses Nouwen’s personal "homecoming" journey that answered his lifelong question of identity. Before he died in 1996 he discovered that he is the one Jesus loves unconditionally. His book carries the hopeful message that God’s healing love for us is always available — all we have to do is receive it.




6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Honest and simple. Nouwen invites us to community.

I loved it. The audio book takes you on a journey of belonging and healthy community. I hope you read this. And look at pictures of the painting at the same time. Listen to it with friends.

I feel certain that you'll grow stronger and unflinchingly courageous together when listening to this astonishing book together instead of watching TV.

It's not long. (like watching a double feature.)

It's a challenging and profoundly healing and practical book about living life fully human, warts and all.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A Pearl Among Parables

Where does The Return of the Prodigal Son rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It was one of the best audiobooks I've listened to, and I immediately purchased my own poster of The Prodigal Son so that I can continue to reflect on Nouwen's beautiful insights into this parable.

What did you like best about this story?

I've read this parable many times, but Nouwen added layers of meaning.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

I wish Audible had more of Nouwen's audiobooks available.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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a must read for every Christian brother and sister

I finished it in two days. I love the story of the Prodigal Son and often find it is misrepresented.
Nouwen does an incredible job giving the understand from both sons standpoint and the father.
I can't wait to go back and listen to it again!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Over philosophical, not practical

I wanted to stop reading half way through but I am not a quitter. It just gets way to out there. Not at all what I expected.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Masterfully written

What did you love best about The Return of the Prodigal Son?

I liked the honesty and forthrightness that comes through the author's writings. I like its readability and could relate. It's worth reading over and over again until we get different chapters. I like how the chapters are broken up to teach the reader a message in each one.

What other book might you compare The Return of the Prodigal Son to and why?

Any book that calls you to be a better person through your ability to be happy with who you are and at peace. Watch Catholicism series by Bishop Robert Barron, especially his summary of the beatitudes. It breaks down the 8 beatitudes into 4 addictions to watch for (wealth, power, pleasure, honor) and 4 attitudes to develop (mercy & compassion, hunger for righteousness, love of peace & reconciliation, unencumbered heart-full speech and living).

Which character – as performed by Dan Anderson O.F.M. – was your favorite?

The three main characters of the painting, the prodigal son, the older son, and the Father.

What did you learn from The Return of the Prodigal Son that you would use in your daily life?

It has taught me the value of daily reflection and remembrance of how important each human being is in the eyes of God. It motivates me to remind myself to live in God's light and full of life everyday within the world with all of its joys and sufferings and share that joy with others.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Now I see that I've been all three.

An eye opening book and a new road for me to travel as I begin my journey to becoming father.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

This was the best in depth accounting of the prodigal son I have ever read and heard equal to Saint John Paul the Great. Wonderful!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent book. I couldn't quit listening.

What a beautiful story of the sons and father! I never knew so much could be interpreted from a painting. My eyes have been opened.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant!

I learned of this book listening to a Tara Brach podcast "Love is always loving us." The book works for me.
I recognized what "leaving home" really is and have a deeper understanding of myself relating to the older brother; I'm angry & judgemental bc of my righteousness and so on...realized my secret deep yearning to belong.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful