the introduction to
the introduction to
WELCOME TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
or two thousand years, Christians and people of good will have been drinking deeply from the streams of salvation
found in this lovely Gospel. My prayer is that you too will experience a deeper conversion to Our Lord Jesus Christ in this saving Word of God. At the very centre of Luke’s Gospel is Jesus Christ. He is presented as the universal Saviour of the world. Jesus is the Good News for all of us – Jew and Gentile alike. There are so many wonderful perspectives from which Luke the Evangelist presents Jesus to us. At all critical moments of his life, Luke shows Jesus in loving prayer union with his Father. We can see Jesus at prayer before his baptism (3: 21), prior to his calling of the apostles (6:12), at the Transfiguration (9: 29) and at Calvary (23: 46). Then, in this Gospel, the presence of women is a special feature. Of particular importance, regarding this dimension, are the infancy narratives. Here, the prominence of Mary, the – 5
Mother of Jesus, is clear. She visits Elizabeth. The birth of Jesus is seen from her maternal care. She learnt of Anna. We come to know Martha and Mary, and Mary Magdalen. Personally, three of my favourite prayers are found in Luke’s Gospel. They all praise God. These are the Magnificat (1: 46-55), the Benedictus (1: 68-79) and the Nunc Dimittis (2: 29-32). How often they have been prayed and sung fervently in our Christian Churches over the centuries! It is now our turn to join in the prayer of the Church in our time and place. In Luke’s Gospel, we experience the encounter of Jesus with so many different types of people. Whether they be Jew, Samaritan, Gentile, the poor, the sinner or oppressed, Jesus offers the love and forgiveness of the Father to each group freely. My prayer is that those who use this little book of Luke’s Gospel will use it in a prayerful manner. The scriptures mean so much to me in my life. They are the air of grace we breathe deeply into our souls. Allow this beautiful Gospel of Luke to penetrate your inner self deeply. With the help of the Holy Spirit, may you encounter the Lord Jesus afresh. Bishop Christopher Prowse Catholic Bishop of Sale, Victoria.
WHO WAS LUKE?
he Gospels are the earliest reliable accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. They were written in the decades following
Jesus’ death and resurrection. Although each is attributed to a single author, we have no accurate knowledge of how the material was assembled and written down. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the “Synoptic Gospels”. Synoptic is Greek for “witnessed together”. They carry similar stories in a similar sequence. John stands apart in style and substance. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that each of these Gospels is simply a mirror of the next. Each author is explaining the life and message of Jesus to a different audience. Hence the different emphasis in the presentation of material. Mark and Matthew are believed to have been addressing predominantly Jewish audiences in Palestine and the diaspora beyond. – 7
Luke’s is the universal Gospel. He wants to carry Jesus’ message to all who wish to hear it. It is believed that Luke was an associate of St Paul, the great missionary of the early church, who used the unprecedented communications provided by the Roman Empire to take the Gospel message far and wide. Luke is also accepted as the author of the Acts of the Apostles which details the happenings in the earliest days of the Christian Church and Paul’s pivotal role in convincing Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem that the Gospel is meant for everyone. Luke has assembled his material to promote the Kingdom of God to all with ears to hear. In this, he is reflecting St Paul: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3: 28 Luke differs from the other Gospel writers not only in his outward focus. He also places the poor and the marginalised at the heart of God’s Kingdom and reiterates our duty to help them. Luke also has a special place for women. He believes Jesus deliberately included them in his actions and parables in order to demonstrate an equality that they did not enjoy in the world at that time. – 8
Luke’s Gospel contains some of the most beautiful imagery, particularly in Jesus’ parables. It contains references all would be familiar with such as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. Luke’s is the only Gospel that provides an extensive account of Jesus’ birth. These Infancy Narratives about the miraculous events of Christmas, like so much of the Gospel story, have provided a shared cultural knowledge for almost 2,000 years. In early days, the imagery was transmitted through the reading of scripture during the Mass and at religious ceremonies. It was captured in stained glass, frescoes and church art that told the story to those unable to read. It has also been presented in music and literature. Luke is represented by an Ox. Such a symbol is associated with sacrifice. His Gospel does emphasise the price we may be asked to pay for following in Jesus’ footsteps. Church tradition sees Luke as a doctor by profession. In the following pages, we look at some of Luke’s enduring images and reflect on the text of the Gospel as well as examining the message Luke wishes to impart.
LUKE AND THE SPIRITUALITY OF ENCOUNTER
he Gospel of Luke offers us a model and guide for our spiritual development. Luke believes that, if we encounter
the life and person of Jesus, our lives will be transformed. Our lives will have a new direction and meaning. The theme of encounter appears regularly through the narrative. Jesus confronts the audience and demands a response. Reading the stories of this Gospel becomes an encounter for us. We, too, are Zacchaeus who climbs the tree as he strives to see Christ. We are the lawyer who listens to the Good Samaritan and is told “go and do the same”. We are the Prodigal Son who rehearses our apology and confronts the one we hurt. We are the dispirited disciples who trundle off from the group and meet the risen Christ. In the Eucharist, we re-enact and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the same way, when we reflect on the Gospel stories, we are challenged to relive the response of those who encountered Jesus. Luke invites us to respond as disciples.
THE ANNUNCIATION LUKE – 1:26-39
“ Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
T H E A N N U N C I AT I O N
n the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged
to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”
W H AT I T M E A N S
he search that forms the basis of this account is not highlighted in the passage, rather it is inferred.
The angel Gabriel, who does most of the conversing, is God’s response to the yearnings of the People of Israel and the whole of humanity. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah to come in fulfilment of the covenant promise made to them. Mary represents all of humanity. She is the first disciple to follow Christ, paradoxically, by being his mother. Through Mary, the “new Eve” as she was called, the human family looks toward God for security and hope. In this Annunciation scene, we see the fulfilment of the quest found in the Christ: you “will bear a son, and you must name him Jesus”. The Encounter with God in the Bible takes many forms, some awe-filled and frightening, others as quiet as a ‘gentle breeze’. The conversation with the angel Gabriel and Mary’s response is a somewhat subdued event but the import of the message is not lost: the Son of God shared fully our human life. God’s grace is found in Jesus Christ who heals and transforms the recipient. Mary did not need healing but she
represents humanity that needs the redemptive action of God. Every moment of every day, God is asking us something. We can respond like Mary and say, “let it be done according to your word”. If we respond to God’s message in this way, we are given the grace of the Holy Spirit to assist us. The response of a transformed life is seen in Mary’s action and words. She immediately visits her kinswoman Elizabeth and she praises God for his plan to “lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things”. • People are still searching for something to give meaning to their lives. What are people looking for? • Where can I encounter God today? • Will I be able to respond like Mary? • How can I live out my new response?
THE WOMAN WHO BATHES JESUS’ FEET WITH HER TEARS LUKE – 7:36-50
Your faith has saved you; go in peace
THE WASHING OF JESUS’ FEET
ne of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place
at the table. A woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner.” Jesus replied, “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” His host answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then turning towards the woman, he said, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” W H AT I T M E A N S
e notice in this story the contrast between two different people: the sinful woman and the
cautious host. Jesus alerts the audience to the search that the woman has embarked upon. She has lived a life without much direction and meaning and has a spiritual quest to find something or someone to bind her life together. Our definition points to an encounter with God that can fill the void in one’s existence. The Encounter with Christ is found in simple acts of service: cleansing water, oil of welcome and a kiss – 17
of greeting. None of these regular rituals are offered to Christ by his host who merely sits on his ‘Pharisaic fence’. Interestingly, Jesus does not address the woman but offers the mild rebuke to his host. The response of a transformed life is found in the assertion by Luke that her many sins are forgiven. God responds to the lowly and fills the starving with good things. The rich are sent away empty. Luke does not elaborate upon the next chapter in the lives of these two people. We can at least infer that the woman has left grace filled, healed and transformed. • What am I searching for? • In what area of my life am I seeking peace? • Where can I encounter God today? • What humble gestures can I offer?
THE GOOD SAMARITAN LUKE – 10:29-37
“ ... ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ ... ‘Go and do likewise’
T H E G O O D S A M A R I TA N
man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him, beat
him and went away, leaving him half dead. Now, by chance, a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, while travelling, came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Jesus asked his disciples, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” One replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
W H AT I T M E A N S
e must remember that this story works on two levels. One is an account of the compassion displayed by
the Samaritan to a suffering person whose race despises him. The second level is the audience that this parable is addressed to: the lawyer who wants to justify himself. Notice that Christ sternly tells him to “go and do the same”. But does he? Who is searching in this story? Clearly the suffering one needs assistance but the expected ones don’t offer it. The priest and Levite find their direction and meaning in rules and walk by on the other side. They are not searching for anything. They have the lot. Their spirituality is intact and no one or nothing can destabilise it. They are safe. The Encounter with God is seen in the person who bandages wounds and hauls the sick to shelter, offering ongoing care for them. God’s love knows no boundaries. Christ continually speaks to, touches, eats and shares stories with the un-blessed. He has neither social nor political boundaries to his level of concern. He will encounter all with his message of the coming Reign of God. As noted above, this story has
a sinister element with the intransigent lawyer coming up against Christ’s all embracing love. The story is one of pure compassion that disregards the conventions of racism. The person who was injured clearly experienced new life. The convalescence and care of the Samaritan worked well and all expenses were paid. Little wonder that, in some medieval cathedrals, the stained glass windows depicting the Good Samaritan place the parable within the story of our salvation. Christ comes down to save us, by bandaging up our wounds and taking us to the inn for care. We are the ones who have been given God’s grace and we can now live a restored life.
• Is my life without a goal? • Am I smug enough to think that I don’t need any change to my life? • Where can I encounter God today? • Who are the suffering people that come across my path?
THE PRODIGAL SON LUKE – 15:11-32
... let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! –
THE PRODIGAL SON
here was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the
property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands’.” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. – 24
Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe — the best one — and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found”!’ W H AT I T M E A N S
he younger son’s search did not merely begin when he was in the pig trough. He is without direction and
meaning when he requests his inheritance, implying that the old man may as well drop dead! The hardships merely opened his eyes to the blessing that his father shares upon all. The action of remembering forges his resolution to return to his home. So many people who are searching for something simply have forgotten their origins. The Encounter with the Father by the Prodigal Son shows two strong people. The Father is watching for his son and embraces him, and showers his love upon him so happy is he to have him back to life. – 25
The younger son is also wonderful in this scene. Luke has him repeat exactly the lines that he rehearsed whilst planning his return even if the father, because of his love and forgiveness, does not allow him to finish. This boy is courageous and sincerely repentant. The encounter is one of mutual love. The response of a transformed life is seen in the feast that is planned. The father wants to celebrate the resurrection of his son who was dead, but has now returned to him. • What have I forgotten from my past? • What blessings have I been given that I disregard now? • Where can I encounter God today? • For what do I need to ask forgiveness?
APPEARANCE O N T H E R OA D T O E M M A U S LUKE – 24:13-35
“ ... he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
ow on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
‘Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us* while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. – 29
W H AT I T M E A N S
he search is simple: this couple have lost their direction and meaning in life. They are the disillusioned ones who
trusted in a message and now are retreating home. They hoped that Christ would redeem Israel but he was killed! The Encounter with God is a classic. Christ listens to their story and then taking the scriptures explains to the couple the passage about himself. The encounter is a rich one that forges a change in attitude and revitalises their hope for a new spiritual identity. A great teacher: engaging in the dialogue, building on their prior knowledge and walking the journey of life with them. Some scholars see this story as an early eucharist with a Liturgy of the Word followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the recognition of Christ in the breaking of bread. • For what am I searching? • Have I lost hope in something that I want or need in my spiritual life? • Where can I encounter God today? • How can I live out my new response?
OTHER LESSONS FROM LUKE
J E S U S A N D Z AC C H A E U S
esus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector
and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half – 31
of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:1-10
R E N D E R U N TO CA E S A R
o the authorities watched Jesus and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he
said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Show – 32
me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able, in the presence of the people, to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. – Luke 20:20-26
DIVES AND LAZARUS
here was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his
gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’ – Luke 16:19-31
October 2012 Reflections by Joe Doolan Design and illustrations by Ian James www.jgd.com.au © ISBN 978 0 9872173 3 2 New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Mirrabooka Press (a division of Openbook Howden Design and Print) 2-12 Paul Street, St Marys SA 5042 Telephone : 08 8124 0000 www.mirrabookapress.com.au
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the introduction to
Throughout the year, school masses, daily prayers and religious ceremonies will often include passages from this much-loved Gospel. This introduction to Luke provides a useful primer for those seeking a better understanding of Luke, and its major themes â€“ openness, inclusion, charity and forgiveness.