Daily Lenten Devotional

Tuesday, First Week of Lent

Tuesday, First Week of Lent

The Son Is Allowed to Go

“I thought the Lord, and he answered me…” Psalm 34:4

The love of the father embraces not just the return of the son but also the leaving of his child. That’s really important: the whole movement of leaving and returning is a movement done under the loving eyes of the father. The father does not say, “Don’t go.” That’s not the spirit of the story. The spirit of the story is, “Yes, son, go. And you will be hurt and it will be hard and it will be painful. And you might even lose your life, but I can’t hold you from taking that risk. And when you come back, I am here for you, just as I am also here for you now.”

In a very deep way, we are, in our lives, often leaving and returning. This isn’t just a one-time event; it’s an ongoing experience. Today, get in touch with your own leavings and returnings. I believe that in a very deep sense, one has to be convinced of God’s love in order to take the risk of leaving once in a while. There are moments when you may need to take a step back and go off for a while, and then come back. It’s important to understand that God’s love fills you and surrounds you whether you are leaving or returning, and that God waits with longing to welcome you on your return.

  • Oh Heart of my Heart, thank you for your blessings, especially of my leavings.


Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Monday, First Week of Lent

Monday, First Week of Lent

Love and Relationships

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Leviticus 19:2

All our struggles in relationships are connected with what I like to call the relationship between the “first love” and the “second love.” The first love is from God, who loved us before we were born. The second love is from our parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, and it is only a reflection of that first love. Sometimes we expect from the second love what only the first love. Then we experience anguish. My personal struggle has always been that I expected a first love from someone who could only give a second love.

As soon as we demand a first love, an unconditional, total, self-giving love, from another human being, who is limited in ability to give and receive, we will be disappointed. Quite quickly we feel anguish and may even resort to violence because we demand from a person what that person cannot give. The other person has no choice but to back off, pull back, and perhaps feel hurt, angry or guilty.

  • Gracious God, give me courage to find the first love in you, and to not demand it from my loved ones.

Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

First Sunday of Lent

First Sunday of Lent

Jesus: The Father’s Portrait

“He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan…” Mark 1:13

Jesus’ three temptations in the desert were about choosing “upward mobility.” Be relevant: do something the world will praise you for like making bread out of stones. Be spectacular: jump from the tower so that everybody can see you as someone so influential, so important. Be powerful: kneel before me and I will give you dominion over everyone and everything. But Jesus said, “No.” Because Jesus knew that God’s way is not to be relevant, or spectacular, or powerful. God’s way is downward. “Blessed are the humble. Blessed are the poor of heart. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Here we have a self-portrait of the Jesus who is also a reflection of the Father: “Who sees me sees the Father.” When we read the Beatitude, we are given an image of the face of Jesus, a face that reflects the love of the Father. Humble. Poor. Meek. Peacemaker. Thirsting for justice and peace. Full of mercy. Jesus invites you and I to become more and more like he was: the image of God appearing in flesh among us. To follow him is our way: The way to glory.

  • Jesus, let me abandon my fear, embrace your love, and be transformed by your grace.

Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Let the Father Forgive

“I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32

The real challenge is to allow yourself to be forgiven, to be healed, to be given something. To truly believe God yearns to wipe away all your guilt and shame and give you a new heart and new spirit it a test of love. Why? Because it changes how you perceive yourself as “the strong one.” Living within families and communities you discover that you have some talents, and others have talents, and you need each other. In a way, what happens within the family, the receiving of gifts from each other, becomes a reflection of the great giving and receiving of God’s faithful love.

It’s hard to live in close relationships and to discover that our greatest gift is often to receive. It means giving up control and admitting, “Yes, I needed your help.” When we make that conversation from being the strong one to being the one who receives, then true mutuality grows and makes love real and visible.

  • Open me, Loving Savior to the precious gifts of family members. Open me to receive with gratitude.

Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Friday after Ash Wednesday

A Healing Revelation

“Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.” Isaiah 58:8

In the light of divine love, we are encouraged to enter into our deepest hearts, often hidden even to ourselves. There we actually touch God’s light, and discover more and more our desire for that presence within. It’s where we experience God saying, “I love you so deeply. I want to be present to you in all your ‘lost’ places so you will know not just your lostness but also in how many places I long to find you.”

This is an exercise of communion: to sit with God in the inner chapel of your heart and to say, “I’ve heard so often of your love but I just don’t believe it. Mostly I believe that you only wish to judge me, but today I’ll remain here in your loving presence, and present myself to you in all my vulnerability.” Heart speaks to heart.

This is not to say, “Well, you’d better start thinking about how awfully dissipated and resentful you are. “No! This is to say, “When you’re in touch with your dissipation and resentment, you’re in touch with the very places that God waits to touch in you more deeply, and to heal you.”

  • Forgiving God, I fear to stop. I need love and want love, but I fear what you might ask of me.

Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Every Child Is Blessed

“I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.” John 15:15

We are all blessed in our very creation, and this blessing never leaves. Our challenge is to claim our “original blessing” as children of the One who gave it to us. We may have been wounded by what is know as original sin, but we are healed by our original blessing. The original blessing, the unconditional love of God, was present in God’s mind and heart long before our conception. It touches us from before our beginnings until after our deaths. It embraces us forever. Each of us is “a blessed one.” That is our primary identity.

Every time we take bread, bless it, break it, and give it, we summarize the whole movement of Divine Love. Jesus also takes (chooses) us, blesses us, breaks us with all our undeserved suffering, and gives us for others. Before we are broken we are blessed. We are not broken because of fault but because we are blessed sons and daughters, like Jesus. Our brokenness allows us to be given in solidarity with all others in the world, just as bread is broken and given to many. We constantly see Jesus doing this: he takes, he blesses, he breaks and he gives. That’s what he does. Let us not forget that. Like Jesus, we also are taken, blest, broken and given, because, like Jesus, we are beloved sons and daughters from our very beginning.

  • Thank you, Lord, for creating me out of love.

Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Ash Wednesday – 3/2/22

From Fear To Love

Strengthen your walk with Christ during this Lent Season

Ash Wednesday

Enlightened by the Father

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10.

If there is no parent, we cannot be lost. If we have no parent to return to, there is no experience of being lost. We are only lost when we can be found. Only in the light of goodness and forgiveness do we discover that we are lost.

The love of a parent makes the child aware of being lost. The older son in the Prodigal Son story doesn’t consider himself lost until he is confronted with the love expressed by the father on his prodigal brother’s return. Only then does he touch his own lostness. The younger son, still apologizing, touches his lostness too, when he sees his father’s forgiveness. This younger son prepares a story of apology because he doesn’t fully understand the nature of his father’s love. Only when he is received, welcomed, and loved within this deep parental embrace is the depth of his lostness revealed to him.

To say it another way, “We only know that we’re in darkness when we come into the light of God’s love. It is only in the light, in the fullness of the sun, that we know there is a shadow.

“Gracious God, open me to recognize your thirst to love me. Inspire me to love those you’ve given me. Amen.”