Lent readings from Henri Nouwen Society

Although I decided to move away from the daily devotion materials from Henri Nouwen Society for daily bible reading scheme in youversion bible, I did read some of them from time to time. Last week, I came across “Reflection for Fourth Sunday of Lent” and this attracted my eyeballs. I digged out three more that were sent in previously weeks and read them all. Feeling so warm and familiar with the words 🙂

Reflection for First Sunday of Lent – Living Lent Attentively and Gently

An excerpt from With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, by Henri Nouwen. Copyright © 1994 Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Orbis Books.

Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us. Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and the familiar, and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust, and a new love. The death and resurrection of Jesus therefore is not just an historical event that took place a long time ago, but an inner event that takes place in our heart when we are willing to be attentive to it.

Lent offers a beautiful opportunity to discover the mystery of Christ within us. It is a gentle but also demanding time. It is a time of solitude but also community, it is a time of listening to the voice within, but also a time of paying attention to other people’s needs. It is a time to continuously make the passage to new inner life as well as to life with those around us.

When we live Lent attentively and gently, then Easter can truly be a celebration during which the full proclamation of the risen Christ will reverberate into the deepest place of our being.

 

Reflection for Second Sunday of Lent – Discerning the Presence

Excerpt from From Fear to Love: Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, by Henri J.M. Nouwen © Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Creative Communications for the Parish.

The Gospels are filled with examples of God’s presence in the word. Personally, I am always touched by the story of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. There he read from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
for he has anointed me
to bring good news to the afflicted.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,
sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord.
(Luke 4:18-19)

After having read these words, Jesus said, “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.” Suddenly, it becomes clear that the afflicted, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed are not people somewhere outside of the synagogue who, someday, will be liberated; they are the people who are listening. And it is in the listening that God becomes present and heals.

The Word of God is not a word to apply in our daily lives at some later date; it is a word to heal us through, and in, our listening here and now.

The questions therefore are: How does God come to me as I listen to the word? Where do I discern the healing hand of God touching me through the word? How are my sadness, my grief, and my mourning being transformed at this very moment? Do I sense the fire of God’s love purifying my heart and giving me new life? These questions lead me to the sacrament of the word, the sacred place of God’s real presence.

 

Reflection for  Third Sunday of Lent – Returning to Trust

Excerpt from From Fear to Love: Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, by Henri J.M. Nouwen © Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Creative Communications for the Parish.

In my own life I well know how hard it is for me to trust that I am loved, and to trust that the intimacy I most crave is there for me. I most often live as if I have to earn love, do something noteworthy, and then perhaps I might get something in return.

This attitude touches the whole question of what is called in the spiritual life, the “first love.” Do I really believe that I am loved first, independent of what I do or what I accomplish? This is an important question because as long as I think that what I most need I have to earn, deserve and collect by hard work, I will never get what I most need and desire, which is a love that cannot be earned, but that is freely given.

Thus, my return is my willingness to renounce such thoughts and to choose to live more and more from my true identity as a cherished child of God.

 

Reflection for  Forth Sunday of Lent – A Cry for Mercy

Excerpt from A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Copyright © 1981 Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Doubleday. Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, 1993 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

O Lord, this holy season of Lent is passing quickly. I entered into it with fear, but also with great expectations. I hoped for a great breakthrough, a powerful conversion, a real change of heart; I wanted Easter to be a day so full of light that not even a trace of darkness would be left in my soul. But I know that you do not come to your people with thunder and lightning. Even St. Paul and St. Francis journeyed through much darkness before they could see your light. Let me be thankful for your gentle way. I know you are at work. I know you will not leave me alone. I know you are quickening me for Easter – but in a way fitting to my own history and my own temperament.

I pray that these last three weeks, in which you invite me to enter more fully into the mystery of your passion, will bring me a greater desire to follow you on the way that you create for me and to accept the cross that you give to me. Let me die to the desire to choose my own way and select my own desire. You do not want to make me a hero but a servant who loves you.

Be with me tomorrow and in the days to come, and let me experience your gentle presence. Amen.

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