Nouwen y el hijo pródigo

Reflexiones sobre la vida de Henri J.M. Nouwen y su libro, El regreso del hijo pródigo.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

Henri Nouwen es uno de mis directores espirituales. Hace muchos años me acompañana en mi caminar con Jesús. Sus escritos me han servido como guía para conocer la espiritualidad del desierto y también para ahondar en mi propio corazón y discernir mi necesidad de Dios y de los demás.

Henri fue sacerdote católico y profesor de las universidades de Norte Dame, Harvard y Yale. Pasó también un tiempo en América Latina con visitas prolongadas en Bolivia y el Perú. Escribió sobre sus experiencias en Sudamérica en su libro, ¡Gracias!.

Nouwen nos llama a dejar el legalismo (apenas modificar nuestra conducta sin tomar en cuenta el corazón) y buscar la intimidad con Dios que lleva a una verdadera transformación.

Uno de sus mejores escritos es El regreso del hijo pródigo. Meditaciones ante un cuadro de Rembrandt.

Escribió, «Me acerqué a “El regreso del hijo pródigo” de Rembrandt como si se tratara de mi propia obra: un cuadro que contenía no solo lo esencial de la historia que Dios quería que yo contara a los demás, sino también lo que yo mismo quería contar a los hombres y mujeres de Dios. En él está todo el evangelio. En él está toda mi vida y la de mis amigos. Este cuadro se ha convertido en una misteriosa ventana a través de la cual puedo poner un pie en el Reino de Dios.»

Vamos a conversar sobre El regreso del hijo pródigo de Nouwen en el segundo encuentro de nuestro Club de lectura en Buenos Aires.

Visiten nuestra cuenta de Instagram para mayor información: @clubdelecturaba.

Para conocer más de cerca la vida de Nouwen, les sugiero los siguientes libros:

Henri Nouwen: Profeto herido de Michael Ford.

Genuis Born of Anguish: The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen de Michael W. Higgins y Kevin Burns.

Befriending Life: Encounters with Henri Nouwen de Beth Porter, ed.

Living the Moment to the Fullest

I have been a little anxious lately, a little impatient. Well, possibly more than just a little impatient! These words of Henri Nouwen are a great remember to live the moment to the fullest:


Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.


Let us live the moment to the fullest!

The Mosaic

A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.

That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say: “I make God visible.” But others who see us together can say: “They make God visible.” Community is where humility and glory touch.


— Henri Nouwen

A Safe Place for Others

When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realise that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.

Many times this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.

— Henri Nouwen

Guarding Against Prejudice

One of the greatest challenges the church faces is prejudice. We think that because we are Christians, saved by the blood of Christ that we no longer suffer from prejudging people. The truth is, whether we grew up in the church or not, our society teaches us to be prejudice. However, this is not what God desires! Henri Nouwen has an interesting reflection on guarding ourselves against prejudice.

“One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

“Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”

God wants us to be free of prejudice because it keeps us from seeing people as God sees them. Let us make a concerted effort to avoid prejudging others and ask the Holy Spirit to constantly remind us of Christ’s love for all of humanity, despite their differences.

Here is another reflection from Henri Nouwen: “We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

“The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let’s remember Jesus’ words: ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged’ (Matthew 7:1).”

Reflecting God’s Perfect Love

God’s love for us is everlasting. That means that God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. It is an eternal love in which we are embraced. Living a spiritual life calls us to claim that eternal love for ourselves so that we can live our temporal loves – for parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends, spouses, and all people who become part of our lives – as reflections or refractions of God’s eternal love. No fathers or mothers can love their children perfectly. No husbands or wives can love each other with unlimited love. There is no human love that is not broken somewhere.

When our broken love is the only love we can have, we are easily thrown into despair, but when we can live our broken love as a partial reflection of God’s perfect, unconditional love, we can forgive one another our limitations and enjoy together the love we have to offer.

Henri Nouwen.

Friends as Signposts

We need friends. Friends guide us, care for us, confront us in love, console us in times of pain. Although we speak of “making friends,” friends cannot be made. Friends are free gifts from God. But God gives us the friends we need when we need them if we fully trust in God’s love.

Friends cannot replace God. They have limitations and weaknesses like we have. Their love is never faultless, never complete. But in their limitations they can be signposts on our journey toward the unlimited and unconditional love of God. Let’s enjoy the friends God has sent on our way.

Henri Nouwen.

Ser bendecidos para bendecir

La persona bendecida siempre bendice, y las personas quieren ser bendecidas. Este parece ser el caso por doquiera que uno vaya. Nadie recobra la vida a partir de maldiciones, rumores, acusaciones o culpas imputadas. Todo esto sucede demasiado a menudo a nuestro alrededor y sólo trae consigo oscuridad, destrucción y muerte. Como personas bendecidas, podemos caminar por este mundo y ofrecer bendiciones. Esto no exige demasiado esfuerzo, pues es algo que fluye de forma natural desde nuestro corazón. Cuando escuchamos en nuestro interior una voz que nos llama por nuestro propio nombre y nos bendice, la oscuridad deja de distraernos. La voz que nos llama ‘hijo amado’ nos dará palabras para bendecir a otros y revelarles que ellos no son menos bendecidos que nosotros.

Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, 1992.