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Reading John's Gospel in the Year of Luke
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LUKE?
As this is Year C of the three-year cycle of gospel readings on Sundays, it is the year of Luke.
You could be excused for wondering what has happened to Luke’s gospel in the Sunday readings of recent weeks. In January and February, sections of Luke were being read in a semi-continuous fashion over the Sundays, with the ‘pericope’ for 25 February being from the end of Luke chapter 6.
This order changed with the start of Lent the following week. The first two Sundays of Lent had readings from Luke that were out of sequence, being from chapters 4 and 9 respectively. In parishes which retained the Year C readings for the 3rd, 4th & 5th Sundays of Lent, segments from chapters 13 and 15 of Luke and then from John chapter 8 were read over those weeks. The gospels for Passion Sunday and Easter, of course, come from the final chapters of Luke where the stories of Christ’s death and resurrection appear.
Because John is not allocated his ‘own’ year, readings from the fourth gospel are used for various feasts and seasons during the other three years including during the Easter season. From the second Sunday of Easter until the feast of Pentecost today, the Sunday gospels have been from John (except for the Ascension last week which has a Luke reading in Year C).
Now you might think that with the end of the Easter season today, we’ll get back to hearing from Luke again in some sort of orderly fashion. Well, not just yet!
Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday and the Year C gospel, like the Year A gospel, is from John again. (For some reason, the reading in Year B, the year of Mark, is from Matthew).
A week after Trinity Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and the reading for Year C, Luke 9: 11-17, brings us back to where we were up to in Luke’s gospel. Well, almost. This year, the feast of the Birth of John the Baptist on June 24 falls on a Sunday, so we revisit the first chapter of Luke for that day.
Finally, from 1st July, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the more orderly pattern re-emerges, picking up Luke from chapter 9 and working through the gospel.
But what has been lost from Luke in the jump from chapter 6 to chapter 9? Most of what was left out appears during Years A and B in the accounts of Matthew and Mark. However, three notable stories about women which appear only in Luke’s gospel won’t be heard this year: the raising of the widow of Naim’s son, the anointing of Jesus’ feet by the “sinful woman” at the home of Simon the Pharisee and the passage that follows this about the women who accompanied Jesus and the twelve disciples and who used their own resources to help them.
Unfortunately, these passages are often omitted because the feasts of Pentecost, Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ frequently fall on what would otherwise be the 10th and 11th Sundays of Ordinary Time when they are listed in the lectionary. In fact, these stories were last proclaimed at Sunday Masses in 1989 and won’t be heard again until 2007.
Perhaps liturgy planners need to find other occasions for incorporating these passages in public worship so that they remain part of our collective memory.