Friday, 3 July 2015
The Prodigal Father (3): the Ways of Compassion
Last week I wrote of the Henri Nouwen’s striving to aspire to be like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son explores his exploration of the parable which was initiated by his encounter with the painting by Rembrandt of the same name based on the parable.
Nouwen saw that what it meant for him to aspire to be like God the father was to be compassionate. Nouwen states that the most radical statement Jesus made was, “Be compassionate as your father is compassionate”. He acknowledges that this is in no way easy for him. To do this you must live a life that is based on cooperation rather than competition—which, of course, is truly radical in today’s culture. However, he identifies three ways to a truly compassionate fatherhood. These ways of compassion are; grief, forgiveness, and generosity.
I will look at each of these ways this week and subsequent weeks beginning with grief. Nouwen notes that there is no grief without tears; either tears that flow from our eyes or tears that flow from our hearts. He notes that there is no shortage of things to grieve over in this world, “When I consider the immense waywardness of God’s children, our lust, our greed, our violence, our anger, our resentment, and when I look at them through the eyes of God’s heart, I cannot but weep and cry out in grief.”
For there to be tears of grief I believe that there must be an open heart. As one who has not always had the gift of tears of compassion that came to me often or easily, I am aware that it is because my heart has not been open to much of the waywardness in the world. I have had a protective wall around my heart that requires breaching. To enable this to happen, we must be open to being hurt by the world.
Nouwen proposes that much of grieving is prayer. A good prayer for the grief that comes from compassion is to prayer that the walls around our hearts will come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho. Blessings.