Sr. Sue Mosteller "Returning Home with the Prodigal Son" | Episode Transcript
Karen Pascal: Hello, I’m Karen Pascal. I’m the Executive Director of the Henri Nouwen Society. Welcome to a new episode of Henri Nouwen: Now and Then. This is our first episode in 2020. Our goal at the Henri Nouwen Society is to extend the rich, spiritual legacy of Henri to audiences around the world. Each week we endeavor to bring you a new interview with someone who’s been deeply influenced by the writings of Henri, or perhaps even a recording of Henri himself. We invite you to share the daily meditations and these podcasts with your friends and family. Through them we can continue to reach our spiritually hungry world with Henri’s writings, his encouragement of course, and his reminder that each of us is a beloved child of God.
I opened my emails this morning and got such an interesting email from someone named Nathan. And he wrote: “Years ago, a great friend and spiritual guide had me read Henri’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. It forever put me on a path to keep Henri’s words and works close to me in my pilgrimage. It was Henri’s works and words that would eventually help me reach home with peace and acceptance.” He goes on to say, “I will never meet him, but I am forever indebted for his words that speak heart to heart.” That describes well the writings of Henri Nouwen.
And now let me share with you some of the things that really inspired me over the Christmas holidays and as I enter into the year 2020. I always find, by the way, that this is such an interesting time in the year, because it’s kind of like for me, it’s in the middle of the year, the year has always felt like it begins in September. But to somehow be given the grace of a fresh start in January is exciting. And we often set out to do different things with that fresh start. We make commitments of how we will be different or how we will be better. I, in reading this book, felt that there was a resource for all of us in it. It’s called Making All Things New. It’s an introduction to the spiritual life.
My guess is that you, like me, want to deepen your spiritual life. I’d like to read to you just a little bit from the book. Henri writes, “Our first task is to dispel this vague murky feeling of discontent and to look critically at how we are living our lives. This requires honesty, courage and trust. We must honestly unmask and courageously confront our many self-deceptive games. We must trust that our honesty and courage will lead us not to despair, but to a new heaven and a new earth.” Then he writes this in his introduction: “Jesus does not respond to our worry-filled way of living by saying that we should not be so busy with worldly affairs. He does not try to pull us away from the many events, activities, and people that make up our lives. He does not tell us that what we do is unimportant, valueless or useless. Nor does he suggest that we should withdraw from our involvements and live quiet, restful lives removed from the struggles of the world. Jesus’ response to our worry – filled lives is quite different. He asks us to shift the point of gravity to relocate the center of our attention, to change our priorities. Jesus wants us to move from the many things to the one necessary thing.” He goes on to say, “Jesus does not speak about a change of activities, a change in contacts, or even a change of pace. He speaks about a change of heart. This change of heart makes everything different even while everything appears to remain the same. This is the meaning of ‘set your hearts on his kingdom first, and all these things will be given you as well’.”
That’s a great inspiration. In the weeks ahead, we would love to speak a lot about how to sustain and enrich that spiritual life. So I hope you’ll come back and listen to the podcasts.
But today I have something special to tell you about. We got some very good news this past week: our dear beloved Sister Sue Mosteller, who was the founder of the Henri Nouwen Society and the founder of the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust, was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. This is for her dedication to improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and for her decades of work as a leader of L’Arche. The Order of Canada was established in 1967 as a fellowship that recognizes the outstanding merit or distinguished service of Canadians who make a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavor. They are the people who have been identified as desiring to make our country better. Certainly Sue Mosteller has done that so much so. She was a dear trusted friend of Henri Nouwen and an influence in his life. And we thought that we might start this podcast with taking you back to a very special morning this past year in London, Ontario, which we recorded when Sue gave an address on The Return of the Prodigal Son, the very book that’s so influenced Nathan. So with this, I wish to introduce you to a wonderful opportunity to listen to Sue Mosteller share about The Return of the Prodigal Son.
Reader: One of Henri’s most important works was inspire by Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. In this book he summarized some of the major themes which ran through his own life and work. In a recent issue of Oprah magazine, Hillary Clinton chose The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen as her favorite book.
Henri Nouwen: When I saw the poster of the Rembrandt painting in which the father embraces his returning son, I was totally overwhelmed. And when I saw the embrace, I said, that’s where I want to be. And out of that I started to think about myself as the prodigal son that wanted to return home. But then I started to study the painting and I went all the way to St. Petersburg to see the original painting of Rembrandt.
The older son suddenly started to speak to me. I’m the oldest son myself in my family, there was a lot of resentment in me, a lot of not fully enjoying being in the church. And so I suddenly discovered I was these two sons. And then something incredibly important happened. I got very depressed and I had to take some time away. And one member of my community came to visit me and she said, Henri you’re talking about yourself being the younger son. And you’re talking about yourself being the older son, but you have to be the father now. That’s what you’re called to be, the father. And look at the father in the painting. Look, the father has a hand of a mother and a hand of a father; has a male hand and a female hand touching the son. Look at the father who like a mother with a big cloak, like a mother bird who holds its young safe. Look at the father who wants to welcome his son back without asking any questions.
The father didn’t even want to hear the story of the younger son. The father doesn’t even want to hear the story of the oldest son. He wants them to be back home on the same table with him and so that they can grow up and become like him. And I suddenly discovered my final vocation is to not only to go home, but to bring people home by saying, “I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad you’re here.” Just get out the cloak, the beautiful ring and get all the sandals and get all, let’s celebrate because you’re back.
Reader: The first reading is from the gospel of St. Luke:
“There was a man who had two sons, the younger one said to his father, father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together, all he had and set off for a distant country. And there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, how many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare? And here I am starving to death. I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.”
Sr. Sue Mosteller: So we begin the story. And we have the first section of this story that was told 2,000 years ago. And it’s so marvelous that we’re still listening and that this story has come down through the ages. It has survived because the story has been meaningful for others.
And about 300 years ago, Rembrandt painted a very beautiful portrait of the prodigal son. So we have a 2000-year-old story and a 300-year-old painting, which has also survived and which today hangs in St. Petersburg and is in the museum there and can be seen. I think the original painting is eight feet tall and six feet wide. So it’s very, very huge. And it was painted at the end of Rembrandt’s life after years and years of a very difficult time. Rembrandt was a young aristocratic painter who was very bold and everybody hated him when he was young, because he was so arrogant. And then one by one, the sorrows of his life changed his heart. And at the end of his life, he was able to paint a beautiful portrait of who God is, of God represented. Again, it’s a painting that has survived and has touched the lives of many, many people.
And then we have a 52-year-old man, Henri Nouwen and he has an experience with this painting. And I just want to read the notes that tell about it. He said, “One day I went to visit my friend Simone.” He was in the village of Trosly-Breuil in France, in the L’Arche community there. “She was in the small documentation center and as we spoke my eyes fell on a large poster pinned on her door. I saw a man in a great red cloak touching tenderly the shoulders of a disheveled boy kneeling before him. I could not take my eyes away. I felt drawn by the intimacy between the two figures, the warm red of the man’s cloak, the golden yellow of the boy’s tunic and the mysterious light engulfing them both. But most of all, it was the hands, the old man’s hands, as they touched the boy’s shoulder that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.”
That was a very, very significant moment in the life of Henri Nouwen. That moment in time when it was exactly the right time for him to see this and to grasp something about his own journey and then to take it very, very seriously. So Simone is talking to him and he’s not listening because he’s glued to this portrait on the door. And she says, “What’s the matter?” And he said, “Where, where did that come from?” Oh, she said, “That’s a painting by your fellow Dutchman. And you’ll like it because he’s Dutch as well.” And she said, “You know, they’re posters; you can buy them.” And Henri said, where?
And I think the next day he went to Paris on the train for an hour. And I think he probably bought 50 copies because, over his lifetime I’m sure that they’ve profited because he gave it to everybody. And all of Henri’s friends, every place he visited, you see these portraits that are framed and hung in significant places in people’s homes because that moment was so significant for him.
So I want to tell a little story about Henri and myself. And it was a story of us going to an art gallery. And I want to tell it because I think it might help us today, as we look at the painting and as we try to engage the story. We were at a meeting in Ottawa and we had an afternoon free and Henri said, “Let’s go to the art gallery” – because he loved art, he loved Vincent Van Gogh. And he said, there’s a painting there on visitation by Van Gogh and I really want to see it. So I said, okay. I am not a connoisseur of art so I thought I’ll learn something because he really knows what he’s talking about. So Henri was quite nervous and he was very anxious. And so we ran, basically, to the museum because he wanted to see this painting and he paid quickly and we ran up the stairs and he said, I think it’s on the second floor. And we ran through the rooms and he was looking wildly to see where it was. And then finally he spotted it and he said, there it is. So we stood in front of it. It was about this big, it was not a large painting. It was about that big, it was a Van Gogh. So I looked at it too, and we stood for five or 10 minutes and he just kept saying, isn’t it beautiful? And I was saying, yeah, it’s really beautiful. And you know, isn’t it so beautiful? And I was saying, yeah, it really is. And I’m trying to look. And many, many people were passing by and he had his face right in the painting practically. He was right up against it.
So then he said, let’s sit down. So the bench is about eight feet back. And of course, there’s this big aisle and all the people are walking by and they’re looking at the paintings. So we sat down on the bench and Henri immediately crossed his legs, put his elbow on his knee and he just sat there. So I looked at the – he was staring right at the painting. So I was looking at the painting too. And I was quite far away and my eyesight isn’t perfect. But anyway five minutes went by and he never moved. Ten minutes. And I don’t know how long it was, but finally I turned and I just said, “Henri, what are you doing”? I said, “Just tell me, because I don’t understand what you’re doing.” And he just looked at me with this terrible look of sorrow. He was so unhappy and he said, “but aren’t you in the painting”? And I said, “no”. And he said “I’m walking around in the south of France.” And he said, “It’s so beautiful.” And then he began to talk to me. He said, “Look at the flowers, look at the light, look at the way it’s portrayed. It’s so beautiful.” He felt so sorry for me.
So I came away from that experience because nobody had ever talked to me about getting in a picture. I had never heard that expression before. So I looked superficially and I saw nice paintings and they were lovely, but I could easily walk away and forget, but Henri couldn’t walk away because he had an experience in the painting. It touched me so much. I mean, he was very kind and he felt very sorry for me. So he wasn’t angry. He was kind and that’s helpful. And I came away and in the days and the months and the years that followed, I began to look at art in a whole different way. But also I began to read scripture in a different way, because there are so many stories in scripture. And suddenly I realized that I could get into the story and I could become people in the story.
So you have the blind man, Bartimaeus, sitting on the roadside begging, and Jesus comes along and there’s a crowd there. And for me, it’s a bit safer to be in the crowd because I’m too scared to be too intimate right away. So I can be a crowd member and I can see this, this thing going on. I can have an experience of this man, beggar calling out and yelling and saying, “Come, Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me, have mercy.” And the crowd getting angry, saying, “Shut up, shut up and be quiet. You know, we’re trying to get close to this guy. We want to get close and I could really feel myself wanting him to be quiet so that I could get close to the big man who was coming to town. And then the voice of Jesus saying, “Bring him to see me.” Bring him here. He heard the man and suddenly the crowd shifts and we’re all running to help him because we want to take him to Jesus. And then we’ll be close there too. And then you see Jesus looking at this poor beggar blind. And just the words that he said, so delicate and so sensitive, “What would you like me to do for you?” Those were the words that he spoke, so sensitive, not, ‘I’m the big man and I can cure you.’ “what would you like me to do for you?” And the man just says, “I’d like to see.” Jesus says, “Let it be done.”
So gradually I was living this whole reality of getting into the story and becoming a participant in this story. And there’s no sense talking about the parable of the prodigal son unless you and I make that same effort. We have to get into the story and we have to experience what these people were living otherwise we don’t get it. I mean, we get a superficial story. We walk away and it means nothing in our lives. But this is a story that tells us about being daughters and sons of God and who God is. And it talks about, if we can do it, it talks about how God wants to relate to us. And that’s what Henri did from 1984.
In 1987 Henri had a nervous breakdown and he had to go away from the community because we couldn’t hold onto him. He needed help. And he went away for seven months and he took that portrait and the Eucharist, and that’s all he had in his room for seven months. And he was in agony. And he just kept getting into the story. He makes a comment which I find interesting. He says, he talks about there are four other characters. If you look closely there are some women and people in the background. And he says, “These bystanders or observers are allowed all sorts of interpretations. And as I reflect on my own journey, I become more and more aware of how long I have played the role of bystander.” So that’s what I was doing at the museum. I was a bystander. For years, I’ve instructed students and others on the spiritual life, helping them to see the importance of living in it, but had I myself really dared to step into the center, kneel down and let myself be held by a loving God? I never fully have given up the role of bystander. Even though there has been in my lifelong desire, an insider looking out, I nevertheless kept choosing over and over again, the position of outsider looking in. And he says, “Sometimes I was looking as a curious bystander, sometimes jealous, sometimes anxious, sometimes loving, but giving up the somewhat safe position of the critical observer seemed like a great leap into totally unknown territory.” Henri knew that if he put himself in the shoes of the young person that it would be a huge leap for him to kneel in front of these hands and to let these hands be on him. “I so much wanted to keep some control over my spiritual journey to remain able to predict at least part of the outcome so that relinquishing the security of the observer for the vulnerability of the returning child seemed to me close to impossible.” And I don’t believe that Henri ever would’ve been able to do that if he hadn’t had that breakdown. That somehow he was so vulnerable and so out of control that he was able to simply let go and say, here I am. And it was then that he began to recognize how God saw him.
And God did not see him with all the faults that he himself knew, jealousy and anger and not enough affirmation and all the things that worried him and troubled him and wounded him. God did not see him as that. God saw him as a beloved child. And all God wanted was that he would claim that; that he would become one who believes that he is beloved. And that was such a beautiful thing and it took a long time. I visited him a couple of times while he was away and his room was just stark. There’s nothing there. I said, “What do you do all day?” He said, “I can’t do anything.” He said, “I can’t”. But he said, “Sometimes I just gaze. And I try to recognize who I am and who God is.” Seven months!
And we weren’t sure that he would be able to return to Daybreak after this because he was very fragile. But he did want to come. He wanted to come back and be the pastor at Daybreak. And of course he was invited because we loved him. He was a wonderful pastor, very, very pastoral and very caring and loving and a bit crazy. But sort of a bit out of control, a bit wild, but that’s okay. And so we were so happy when he decided to come back and he was quite fragile, but he gradually we watched it happening. We watched him becoming like the figure of the father. He just couldn’t stop telling us that we were beloved daughters and sons. He couldn’t stop. And he couldn’t stop blessing us. I mean, you’re practically going out to the grocery shopping and he wants to give you a blessing. I mean, but everybody that came and went he wanted to offer them a blessing.
And when we had events, like this young man who did a life story book, who had resisted it for a long time because his life story was so violent and so terrible, and he didn’t want to do it. And then finally with the help of Assistants, Joe and his wife and those who loved him, he began to write to some of his teachers and some people, and they wrote to him and told them about who he was and what his life was. And he had this little life story book. It was in comparison with others who had two books that were this thick. And, you know, Bill’s book was about this thick. And when he finished, he and Henri were friends, Henri said, “Let’s bless your life story book.”
So after the Eucharist one day we had the life story book on the altar. And after the Mass, Henri said, “Let’s bless Bill’s life story book.” So Bill came up and they were standing together and Henri had the book in his hand and he said, “Bill, this is such a beautiful and blessed story. And yes, you’ve suffered but look at you. You’re such a wonderful man.” And he talked to him and Bill just burst out crying, just fell onto Henri’s shoulder. He was just so moved by the affirmation of Henri. And then Henri blessed his book.
After Henri died, I used to take Bill with me. We used to do talks together. And he always took his life storybook. And I felt sorry for the audience because he talked about it. And then afterwards, the poor people trying to eat their lunch and he was taking and showing them every page of his book and pointing at all the pictures and laughing and telling the stories that were told in the book, but it was blessed. And it was a life that was blessed because this man Henri took the courageous step of really recognizing that there is a God who loves us in a way we could never imagine.
So we want to enter more deeply into that story today. And each of us try to be a bit courageous. I want to just say a word – that it’s a very masculine story. And I being a woman – it’s painful. I have to say that and I can’t feminize it very well. So I just want to say that my sort of conclusion about that is that I shouldn’t be stopped by that because that was the time, that’s the way it was. And I can’t change it, but I can adapt and I can see all the maternal and the feminine in it if I work at it. So I just encourage you to try not to be stopped by the fact that it is painful, that there are no women involved.
So this morning we wanted to talk a little bit about the younger son. And we see a typical teenager, young man, probably very adolescent, intolerant and selfish. It’s all about him. And we know that we know people like that. So everything is about him. So he doesn’t even know how cruel he is when he asks his father for his inheritance. He doesn’t realize that that’s an insult that tells his father that he wishes he were dead, but because he hadn’t died, he wants his inheritance now. And it’s a very, very insulting thing to do. And then he goes away. And he gets far from home, so far from home. Yes in body, but also far from home in spirit, far from that home where there were loving parents who wanted him to grow up and become like them. He squanders, he lives for pleasure. It’s all about himself. And he is completely lost and doesn’t even recognize it until he runs out of money. And then he recognizes that he’s not able to make it on his own. This young man does not know the heart of his parents. He doesn’t know the heart of the love that is there for him in his home. He doesn’t get it. And in a way, as a young adolescent, he doesn’t want it because it’s too sentimental. And he wants to go off and do his own thing. So he doesn’t return because he knows that there’s love waiting for him. He doesn’t know the heart of his father. He has no idea who his father really is. So he says to himself, he has this little thing going on in his brain, “I’ll return, but I’ll become a servant in his house because I know he won’t welcome me home. But I can become a servant and then I won’t have to worry about meals. Yeah. I’ll have to work, but it’s okay, I can do that. Maybe I can save a little money then I can leave again.” But that’s the attitude of the return.
So his return might not be like Henri’s return or your return or mine because he had no idea. But it’s good that this happened because then we really can see the heart of the parent in this story. So he decides to go home and as Henri says, he makes up a little speech to talk to his father. “I’ve, you know, I’m sorry I’ve done this but I’ll just come and be a servant in your house.” And he’s got his speech all ready to give his father when he finally meets him with no expectation of what’s going to actually happen. That being that, since he left this parent has been looking for him every day, hoping for his return because his love is so generous. It’s so overwhelming. There’s something about letting him go knowing that he is going to suffer, but saying I can’t control that. And so letting him go. I mean, in a way he blesses him almost in saying here’s the money, go. He blesses him in the leaving. And when the son is coming back he’s looking for him. And his first gesture is to run out, to greet him and to welcome him home. So here we have a huge contrast between the one who is all for self and the one who is all for others. And this is the beginning of our recognition of how God looks at us, how God looks at the children that God has made, the children that God has brought to bear and brought to life. And that God looks at us and sees just beauty and goodness and kindness and joy. And that all the things we look in the mirror and see –“I’m angry. I’m upset. I’m difficult. I’m hopeless”– God, doesn’t see that at all.
I guess the question then is for you and I to ask, “Where are the characteristics of this young man in me?” And we’re going take a few minutes just of silence when I’m finished in a couple of minutes, and I’m going to ask you to just look at the portrait or you can just remain, but how do I identify? I’ve been given so much by God, I’ve been given a loving heart. I’ve been given gifts that I have, and I can offer those gifts to others. I’ve been given amazing relationships that are wonderful and terrible. And I don’t know about you, but my family is fantastic and awful. And the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, I mean, I just give thanks every day. How can I thank you enough for bringing me, but it’s so awful living in community and I want to murder everybody before the day is over. So what about these relationships? What have I been given and what am I squandering and how am I in these relationships? And you and I today might look at – we all have what we call primary relationships – that is those closest to us, family and maybe friends. And then we can work out from there.
I meet so many people where relationships are broken. My niece and my nephew they’re not talking to each other. And every day I say to the Lord, you know, before one of them dies, you said you would do anything. If I tried to follow you said I could ask anything and you’d do it. So I’m asking before one of them or the other dies, get them talking to each other again. It’s so stupid. But it happens to us. We have these breakages and they have wounded us. And this is what the father could have claimed in this story. The father could have said, ‘You took all the money and you ran away. So you can just make it on your own buddy.’ Because he had invested a lot in that relationship. And I can say the same thing. I’ve invested a lot in this relationship and now you’ve wounded me, so I’ll never forgive you. But the point is that in the very, very first chapter of the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, very first chapter, you and I were made in the image and likeness of God. And that has profound meaning. That if we were made in the image and likeness of God, God is very, very creative and generative and loving. God can’t stop creating. And that God has created each one of us and every one of us recognizable by the difference, but millions and millions and millions of people. And each of us with a heart that is like the heart of God. And that is supposed to give life. And that is supposed to love. And that is supposed to forgive, even if it hurts, even if there isn’t anything coming from the other side.
Just talking to my niece and I said, you know, how do you feel about this? She said, if he would come to the front door and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ I’d take him in my arms. So there’s an openness. But she’s been wounded because hard things have been said. She’s willing to put all that aside. That’s not, that’s not part of it. She loves her brother. That’s my niece. But it hasn’t happened.
And you and I have a heart that is like the heart of God and what Henri talks about and it’s so wise, if you haven’t read it, read it and then read it again. But read it slowly. You don’t read this like a novel you read this like a little bit at a time and you say, how does it affect me? How do I step into this story like he did? And he had a lot of wounds from people who had wounded him and he knew that he wasn’t to wait until they came and said they were sorry. It was to let them go free, to contact them and to say you’re my friend and I hope you’ll come and visit me even if it was broken. You and I have been given a heart like the heart of God we’re made in the image and likeness of God.
I loved it when one time I had this person that I was living with and I could not stand her, sorry to say. Anyway, she was in my face everywhere. Everywhere I went she was there because she loved me. I was dying every second. And so I’d come down the stairs in the morning and there she was and then she’d fight to get a place next to me at the table. And she didn’t have a lot of sense of her body. So she was always poking me with her elbow. And I was – after about two years, I said to my spiritual director, I’m having trouble with this woman. And then I said, this is really trouble I really don’t know how to react. I’m so mad. And then it got – as the years went on. So finally one day I went and said, it’s over. I can’t do it. I can’t live with her. So I said, it’s either her or me. One of us has to move and I’m willing, I’m willing to move. So help me. How do I do this? I was crying and I was yelling and I was doing… and my spiritual director’s a Jesuit and he’s so funny because I do all that and he sort of puts his feet up and lies back and closes his eyes and has a little sleep and I’m crying and saying I can’t. And I, you know… and so finally I finished and I said, so what’s the answer? So he opened his eyes and looked at me very kindly and said, it’s not about her. I looked around and there was nobody else there. And it was a lesson. It’s not about her. I can’t change her. So can I change? And then the next thing he asked me, which I’m embarrassed about, but which was so good for me was, “Why are you so afraid of love?” That was a very important question. He said, “All she wants to do is love you and why are you running away?”
It happened 30 years ago, but I still live by it. And I still know that in these broken relationships and these places where we’re angry and we can’t forgive, it’s not about the other person who hurt me, it’s about me. What am I going to do? How is my heart going to respond? The heart that God gave me, which is a heart for loving and to step through my pain, somehow, with the help of God and to let people go free. Whether they’re going to forgive me, whether we’re going to ever have friendship again is not the question. It’s not about them. It’s about me.
So let’s take a few minutes and I invite you to just take a little time. I want to say that I think that this day in our lives, it’s a call for us to turn and to come home to the truth of who we are. To come home. So I’ll finish with a story and then we’re going to have 10 minutes and this church will be totally silent. We’ll ask you, silent means, don’t say anything. Let it be silent so people can reflect, or you might like to get up and walk and so on. And then come back in 10 minutes for Joe’s talk, but just where are you with this?
So this last story is about David, who lived at Daybreak and a wonderful man. And he liked to answer the telephone, but he didn’t know how to use it too well. So he would answer the phone and the person said, “Could I please speak to Sue?” And he’d say, “Yes. Now what’s your name?” And so the person would say their name and well, “How did you meet Sue?” So then they would tell the story of how they met me. So well, “What did you want to talk to her about? And do you have any children?” And he’d get the whole history. And then at the end he’d say, “Well, Sue’s not home, but I’ll…”
So one day the phone rang and David answered the phone and the operator said, “I have a collect call from Joe Egan, from Boston. Would you accept the call?” And Dave said, “No, Joe’s away for the weekend.” So the operator said, “No, no,” she said, “This is from Joe for you would you accept the charges of this call from Joe?” He said, “No.” He said, “Joe went to Boston, he has some friends there and he wanted to visit them. And I think he’s giving a talk. I’m not sure, but anyway, he’s not here.” So the operator, so there’s sort of a silence and Joe can hear this at the other end. So Joe said, “Dave, just say yes.”
So the operator said, “Excuse me, sir, if you don’t wish to pay for this call, please don’t speak to your party.” So Dave said, “Oh Joe, there’s a call here for you, what should I do?”
And I want to say to you and I, particularly – there’s a call. There’s a call. This is an invitation to come to the truth of who we are. We are God’s beloved daughters and sons, God loves us. And you and I are made in the image and likeness of God. So are we going to come home to be that person? Are we going to keep growing to be the one who is blessing, who is forgiving, who is full of compassion and who somehow deals with the pain so that it doesn’t leak out and make others unhappy. And it’s a good thing to just spend a little time with our relationships today. Thank you.
Karen Pascal: Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. I hope the opportunity to hear Sue Mosteller speak on The Return of the Prodigal Son has really encouraged you. And I hope you’ll share it with somebody dear to you.
For more resources related to today’s podcast, click on the links on podcast page of our website. You can find additional content, book suggestions, and other reading material, including a link to books to get you started in case you are new to the writings of Henri Nouwen. And thanks for listening, until next time.
In the words of our podcast listeners
Help share Nouwen’s spiritual vision
When you give to the Henri Nouwen Society, you join us in offering inspiration, comfort, and hope to people around the world. Thank you for your generosity and partnership!