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More About Luke's Gospel
More about Luke’s Gospel
The gospel reading for today, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, is not from Luke as you would expect in Year C but from John. John’s account of the marriage feast at Cana, another Epiphany of Christ, provides continuity between the Christmas season and that of Ordinary Time.
A few weeks ago I gave some background information about the gospel for Year C. This week I look at some of the distinctive features of Luke’s gospel.
The Holy Spirit is given prominence in Luke’s gospel in a way not found in the other gospels. People are frequently described as being filled with or inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luke stresses the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Incarnation, in the events of Jesus’ life and as the guide and inspiration of the Christian community.
The role of prayer in Jesus’ life and ministry is developed more by Luke than the other evangelists. He shows Jesus instructing the disciples in the importance and power of prayer in the story of a friend asking for bread in the middle of the night and in the parables of the persistent widow and of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
In Luke’s account of the Passion Jesus is described as praying on six occasions, making it clear that it is prayer that gives him the inner strength to endure this trial. Even on the cross Jesus continues to pray, first that his executioners might be forgiven and then to commend his life into God’s hands.
Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus is portrayed as compassionate and merciful. He eats meals with public sinners, cares about society’s outcasts and treats women with dignity and respect. In Luke's story about Martha and Mary, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet as a disciple, something that would have been considered unacceptable in Jesus' time.
Many popular bible stories like the parables of the Good Samaritan, the visit of the shepherds to the infant Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus come from Luke’s gospel. His wonderful "lost and found" stories (the stray sheep, the missing coin, and the prodigal son) are not found in the other two synoptic gospels.
Luke relates Christianity to Roman history. The gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, which describes the date of John’s ministry in great detail (“in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius …”), is a good example of this. Luke also presents the Roman authorities in a much more favourable light than the other Gospel writers. For example, Pilate is recorded three times as saying that he finds no fault in Jesus, thus placing responsibility for the Crucifixion on the Jewish leaders.
Apart from being the gospel readings for year C, Luke's writings appear regularly in another form of the church's liturgy. The three hymns from his stories of Jesus' nativity are used as canticles in the Liturgy of the Hours. The song of Zechariah (Benedictus) is recited or sung at morning prayer, the song of Mary (Magnificat) at evening prayer and the song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittus) at night prayer.
The canticles all reflect Luke's emphasis on salvation and on what God accomplishes through the lives of ordinary people. We too, with Mary, praise God who regards our humble state, who raises up the lowly, whose mercy embraces the faithful from one generation to the next.