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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Henri Nouwen on the incarnation, forgiveness, trust and God’s love

Henri Nouwen on the incarnation, forgiveness, trust and God’s love

Last week, I gave my readers an overall view of the spiritual writer and author Fr. Henri Nouwen. This week I would like to go deeper into his insights and spirituality.

Nouwen on God becoming human. “I think that we have hardly thought through the immense implications of the mystery of the incarnation. Where is God? God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the disabled, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless.

“How can we come to know God when our focus is elsewhere – on success, influence, and power? I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need . . . Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. When we discover him, we can truly rejoice.”

On forgiveness. “To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, ‘I no longer hold your offense against you.’ But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the ‘offended one.’

“When we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also us. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.”

“So forgiveness has two sides: giving and receiving. Although at first sight giving seems harder, it often appears that we are not able to offer forgiveness to others because we have not been able fully to receive it. Only as people who have accepted forgiveness can we find the inner freedom to give it. Why is receiving forgiveness so difficult?

“It is very hard to say, ‘Without your forgiveness I am still bound to what happened between us. Only you can set me free.’ That requires not only a confession that we have hurt somebody but also the humility to acknowledge our dependency on others. Only when we can receive forgiveness, can we give it.”

Nouwen on trust. “Trust is the basis of life. Without trust, no human being can live. Trapeze artists offer a beautiful image of this. Flyers have to trust their catchers. They can do the most spectacular doubles, triples, or quadruples, but what finally makes their performances spectacular are the catchers who are there for them at the right time in the right place.

“Much of our lives is flying. It is wonderful to fly in the air free as a bird, but when God isn’t there to catch us, all our flying comes to nothing. Let’s trust in the Great Catcher.”

On God’s love. “God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, ‘I love you, if . . . ’ There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances.

“Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God wants to enter into relationships with us and wants us to love God in return. Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always love more.”