The artist Rembrandt painted “Return of the Prodigal Son” near the end of his life in the last half of the 17th century. Centuries later, in 1983, the great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen encountered a copy of the artwork and was profoundly moved, so much so that he traveled to see it in person at the great Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. In response to the deep emotions inspired in him by the painting, Nouwen wrote a small book called The Return of the Prodigal Son. He wrote, “I felt that, if I could meet Rembrandt right where he had painted father and son, God and humanity, compassion and misery, in one circle of love, I would come to know as much as I ever would about death and life. I also sensed the hope that through Rembrandt’s masterpiece I would one day be able to express what I most wanted to say about love.” (Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, New York: Doubleday, 1992, pages 6-7).
This Sunday, we will explore the artwork of Rembrandt and the reflections of Henri Nouwen to probe one of Jesus’ most famous stories. — nancy kinzer