Beloved in Christ Jesus,
Grace to you and peace from God who is made known to us most fully in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our savior.
Tuesday, September 21, marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of The Reverend Henri Nouwen. As you likely know, Nouwen was a Dutch, Jesuit priest. The significance of his contribution to the body of Christ and humanity writ large transcended his Catholic roots. He truly had a “catholic spirit” and embodied one of the historic marks of the church - catholicity.
Nouwen served in many ways. He was pastor, teacher, counselor and mentor. He fulfilled these roles sometimes in formal settings like the parish and academy. Nouwen also preached and spoke broadly around the world. He wrote prolifically. It is perhaps through his writing that he is most widely known.
I have read several of his books and still have a few on my shelves. While the titles and presenting themes differ, I have concluded that Nouwen had and has one driving message for all of us. Namely “You are the beloved of God.” He pressed his claim about our belovedness by reminding us of the hollowness of succumbing to any or all of the three things that we are sometimes prone to believe:
- We are what we do
- We are what others say we are
- We are what we have
Nouwen labored to help people be delivered from the bondage that giving in to believing any of the above three to be ultimately true about ourselves. This may be more important than ever in this season when so many among us believe they are not enough. Doing more, having more, and ordering our lives to please others more will not contribute to the meaning, purpose and joy for which we yearn. These things must find their genesis in our being convicted, converted and convinced that we are God’s beloved. Absent this becoming the reigning truth of our lives, we are likely to find ourselves more empty than full. Embracing the truth of belovedness sets us free to live life rather than spend our time searching for a life.
So, I end where I have before with this reminder from holy writ: Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be…
Yours in Christ,
† Bishop Gregory V. Palmer