There are no promises of quick fixes or permanent change in Nouwen’s work. There is no need to conquer or master ourselves in The Return of the Prodigal Son. It is more a matter of changing our perception of our imperfections and wounds. Like Elijah, who heard the voice of God in the stillness and quiet of the desert, Nouwen doesn’t proclaim. He encourages, suggests, invites.
This may contribute to the book’s relative hiddenness in the cultural mainstream. By using his own experience, Nouwen shows us that gift is often in the struggle and that, by claiming our woundedness, we are more able to love ourselves as God loves us. The cultural norm is to be spectacular, the winner, the best but Nouwen’s voice is more countercultural.
Watch the conversation with Gabrielle Earnshaw, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, and Karen Pascal on Henri Nouwen and The Return of the Prodigal Son: The Making of a Spiritual Classic