As we return to Ordinary Time we will be hearing readings from the Gospel of Saint Luke this year. I would like to introduce Luke to you. He was not an apostle, not an eye witness to the earthly life of Jesus. He became a disciple of Christ and a believer, probably after the death and resurrection of Christ.
He is also considered to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles which is an account of the life of the early Church, including the preaching and missionary activity of Saint Paul. Acts continues where the Gospel of Luke leaves off. It is actually two parts of a single book – a history of the rise of Christianity. Around the year 150 AD when the Church wanted the four Gospels distinguished, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were separated. Both are linked by their prologues which mention Theophilus and his desire to write about the life of Jesus. They are also linked by their vocabulary, grammar, and style. Luke was an educated Greek with some knowledge of medicine. He is mentioned in the Letter to the Colossians: “Luke, the beloved physician, sends greetings as does Demas” (4: 14).
Saint Paul mentions Luke in two other epistles. In the short letter to Philomon at the end he says that Luke sends greetings. In 2 Timothy 4: 11 in speaking about companions Paul says that Luke is with me. These brief references indicate Luke as a companion of Paul. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke uses the pronoun “we” which indicates that Luke was with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys.
Luke’s Gospel was written after the Gospel of Mark and relies heavily upon Mark but he also develops his own sources in the interest of clarity and logical sequence. The originality of Luke is not in ideas but in his religious mentality. In Jesus he sees a prophet of loving kindness. We see this in particular in chapter 15 where the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (prodigal) son are unique to Luke’s Gospel. In each parable the concern of Jesus is to reach out to the lost, the last, and the least. The story of Zacchaeus, which is also unique to Luke’s Gospel, is further evidence of this outreach: ”Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” (19: 10).
There are five titles for Jesus found in Luke’s Gospel. First, he sees Jesus as the prophet fulfilling the vision of Isaiah and announced by John the Baptist. He uses the title “Lord” 103 times in various contexts. This title reflects the status of Jesus as the Risen Lord that is then projected back into His ministry. Jesus is also seen as the Lord of the Sabbath. Thirdly, Luke speaks of Jesus as the Messiah, which means the anointed one, the Christ. This occurs in five verses beginning with the infancy narrative: “To you is born this day in David’s city a Savior who is Messiah and Lord” (2: 11). As we know, the story of the birth of Christ in all its detail is unique to Luke’s Gospel. This is where we find the title of Savior in 1: 47 and 2:11. The title “Savior” is also found at the crucifixion where Jesus is taunted as the Savior (23: 35, 37, 39). The fifth title used by Luke is Jesus as the “Son of Man.” It occurs 25 times most frequently as a title Jesus uses about Himself. It links His ministry, His death, and future judgment.
Finally, the Holy Spirit is quite prominent in Luke’s Gospel both in the infancy narratives, the presentation in the temple where we encounter Simeon, and in the ministry of Jesus: “Filled with the Holy Spirit” Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert… Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and news of Him spread throughout the region… Then in the temple Jesus assumes the mantle of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (4: 1, 14, 18).
To be continued…