The Good News According to Luke - 13th December 2015

The Church’s liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, so two weeks ago we started hearing at Mass readings that are set down for 2016, which is the year of Luke in the 3-year cycle of Sunday Lectionary readings.
Luke’s account appears in two volumes - the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  Together these two books occupy almost one quarter of the New Testament. Most scripture scholars date Luke’s writing at around the year 80.

According to tradition, Luke is the doctor to whom Paul refers to in his letter to the Colossians as his fellow worker and companion.  The gospel of Luke appears to be addressed to people of Greek background because it was written in idiomatic Greek and all Hebrew and Aramaic terms were translated into Greek.

Some details of Luke’s life can be deduced from Paul’s epistles and from his own accounts in the book of Acts. He accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey from Troas to Philippi and on the third from Philippi to Jerusalem. He also travelled with Paul to Rome where he remained during the latter’s period of imprisonment there.

Luke is traditionally symbolised by a winged ox because of his emphasis on the sacrificial aspect of Christ’s life (oxen being used in temple sacrifices.) Whereas Mark and Matthew link salvation to Jesus’ death on the cross however, Luke presents the life, death and teaching of Christ as a message of universal salvation for all people, not only the Jews.

Luke describes Jesus saving people throughout his ministry and shows it happening here and now, in their midst: “Today salvation has come to this house”, “Today you will be with me in paradise”.

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.

Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus is portrayed as compassionate and merciful. How appropriate then that this is the Gospel that will be read at Sunday Masses during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In Luke’s Good News we learn that Jesus eats meals with public sinners, cares about society’s outcasts and treats women with dignity and respect. In his story about Martha and Mary, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet as a disciple, something that would have been considered unacceptable at the 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 found in none of the other gospels.

Elizabeth Harrington